Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD), also known as GERD, is a digestive condition that involves the irritation of our oesophagus (our food pipe) from stomach acid or bile. It is estimated to affect 11.6% Australians and up to 20% in the Western world. Whilst it doesn't contribute to mortality, it may have financial burdens and imapcts on quality of life on the individual. Long term poorly controlled GORD may cause damage to the oesophagus, resulting in complications such as as ulcers, inner bleeding, dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing) and potentially surgery.
RIsk factors for GORD include obesity, advanced age, male gender, Caucasian ethnicity, diets high in fat, sugar & salt, alcohol and smoking.
How is it managed?
Medications such as Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI) may be initially prescribed by GPs to reduce stomach acid production. However this is often a short term medication course, for 4-8 weeks. Long term PPI are generally not recommended for the management of GORD. Potential adverse effects of PPI may include headache, diarrhoea and nutritional implications such as reduced vitamin B12 absorption.
Therefore, lifestyle modification strategies are encouraged to maintain long term health and wellbeing. Weight loss, if overweight, has been suggested to have the most significant efficacy in reduction of symptoms. Other lifestyle modifications include:
Stop smoking - tobacco can irritate your gastrointestinal system
Reduce alcohol intake - alcohol can increase reflux due to relaxation of the oesophagus muscles
Exercise - assists with digestion and weight management
Sleep with bed head raised - may be useful if you experience nocturnal reflux
Small and frequent meals
Avoid eating 2-3 hours before going to bed and lying down after eating
Healthy balanced meals and snacks
What can I do about my diet?
There are certain foods that may cause more problems for people with GORD. Try reduce the consumption of the following to see if it can relieve your symptoms:
Foods high in fat
Citrus fruit juices
Eating a healthy balanced diet can not only help with managing GORD symptoms, it can also assist with healthy weight loss and improve overall wellbeing. Check out our 10 Ways To Get Healthy blog post to get you started or book an appointment to see our Accredited Practising Dietitian for more tailored advice.