Bring out the grills, picnic baskets, and red-checkered tablecloths – summer is here! With warmer weather and the added hours of sunshine providing the perfect setting, it’s no wonder why outdoor cookouts with loved ones are a cherished seasonal past time.
For those who struggle to keep digestive symptoms at ease, gatherings centered on food can be challenging. Learn which choices are known to aggravate flare-ups during these months and what to do if things get serious.
GERD is very common
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic digestive condition where stomach acid or bile flare up into the food pipe (esophagus) lining.
Certain diets and lifestyle habits can irritate the stomach, causing acid reflux or heartburn. While it is normal to feel mild every once in a while (especially after eating), two or three instances a week can be a sign of something more serious. Persistent symptoms, such as pain in the chest, choking in the middle of the night, hoarseness in the morning, or trouble swallowing, are usually the first signs of GERD.
People of any age can develop GERD, making it very common. In fact, 20% of people in the United States experience GERD symptoms at least twice a week. Those who are overweight or obese, pregnant, smoke/are exposed to second-hand smoke or are taking medications known to cause side effects of acid reflux are more at risk of developing symptoms of GERD.
Food makes all the difference
The good news is that GERD can be controlled with simple changes. Eating smaller meals more slowly can help prevent the stomach from getting too full, allowing acid to stay put and do its job to help digest food.
Greasy, spicy, fatty and acidic recipes – especially those popular in the summertime – can also cause digestive upset.
Skip these picnic table staples to avoid GERD:
- Fatty meats, like burgers and ribs, contain higher than recommended amounts of fat; chicken that is not covered in sauces or veggie kabobs are safer
- Marinades, juices, and desserts made of citrus fruits contain acid – yes, even lemonade
- Salsas made with tomato and spicy jalapeño are a no-go; stick to milder fruits, bean dips, or hummus instead
- Dairy foods, such as ice cream and buttered corn, can be problematic for those who cannot easily digest milk sugars or proteins
- Grilled onions and peppers seem innocent because cooking foods usually tones down acid, but many stomachs disagree with spices used to add more flavor
- Fried chicken and french fries cooked in oil tend to overwork the digestive process compared to non-greasy, baked ones
- Carbonated or alcoholic beverages can cause the valve connecting the stomach to the esophagus to relax or open unnecessarily
Lying down after a meal, intense exercise, and not drinking enough water can also contribute to GERD's worsening symptoms.
Left untreated GERD and acid reflux can cause serious problems
Over time, uncontrolled stomach acid will wear away at the healthy tissue lining the esophagus. While usually not life-threatening, damages may lead to complications swallowing or breathing, and in some cases, cancer.
When to go to the doctor for GERD or acid reflux
If GERD is interfering with your day-to-day life and over-the-counter (OTC) heartburn/acid indigestion drugs do not help, a primary doctor or gastroenterologist specialist may need to prescribe something stronger. In rare cases, surgery or other procedures may be necessary. If you experience chest pain, seek emergency care.
Year-round, the experienced gastrointestinal (GI) team at Northwest Medical Center specializes in diagnosing and treating digestive disorders so you can get back to living life.
To learn more about the digestive health services offered, call our Consult-A-Nurse® team at (954) 601-8094.