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Symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux, causes and foods to avoid

Sintomi reflusso gastroesofageo

In Italy there are about 14 million people suffering from gastroesophageal reflux and the highest incidence occurs in the age group between 65-75 years, but it can also occur in young people. When we talk about gastroesophageal reflux, we mean the condition in which gastric juices come into contact with the wall of the esophagus and cause painful symptoms. It should be emphasized that the passage of gastric contents from the stomach to the esophagus is a situation that occurs every day, but only when accompanied by heartburn or other symptoms is it considered as a disease (GERD). Let’s see what are the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux, the causes and the foods to avoid.

What are the causes of gastroesophageal reflux?

Gastroesophageal reflux occurs above all after eating because with digestion the gastric juices go back towards the esophagus, consequently, a fundamental component to alleviate the symptoms is to reduce the consumption of certain foods.
It is a multifactorial clinical condition that can arise in the presence of different causes:

  • food, the main cause of reflux is linked to incorrect eating habits, for example the intake of foods that are too fatty or fried or the excessive use of alcohol;
  • physiological;
  • anatomical, for example, those who present an incomplete closure of the esophageal sphincter or suffer from hiatal hernia;
  • pharmacological, given by the prolonged intake of certain drugs such as antihistamines, painkillers or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which contribute to the onset of reflux symptoms;
  • hormonal.

Among the other causes that can determine GERD, we find the functional ones: excessive gastric secretion or stagnation of food in the stomach for a long time, not to mention that stress can contribute to the exacerbation of symptoms.
Obese (or overweight) people and pregnant women are more likely to develop gastroesophageal reflux disease because they have excessive gastric or “intra-abdominal” pressure. Even those who rest after eating a large meal can develop GERD over time.

What are the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux?

As we pointed out earlier, gastroesophageal reflux is a normal physiological condition, which does not cause any symptoms. On the other hand, when we talk about disease (GERD) there is the presence of a typical or atypical symptomatology that lasts over time. The most common symptoms are heartburn or gastric regurgitation, which occur throughout the day and usually after eating.
Indigestion, hiccups or chest pain are always considered common symptoms, but not all patients with this disease suffer from them. Some individuals may experience so-called “atypical symptoms”: dysphonia, dry cough, hoarseness, asthma and sensation of a lump in the throat, always attributable to reflux.
Heartburn and regurgitation, if they occur only on a few occasions, shouldn’t be an alarm bell, instead it is important to consult a specialist if they are continuous and occur after each meal.

What are the foods to avoid?

Reflux manifests itself above all if you have unhealthy eating habits, so to prevent the onset or reduce symptoms it is advisable to avoid certain foods, such as: tomatoes, alcohol, citrus fruits, coffee, chocolate and mint. If you consume these foods, you will immediately notice an increase in heartburn or regurgitation.
Carbonated drinks, spirits or sausages are not completely eliminated from the diet, but excessive consumption could affect heartburn. Some studies have shown that too hot or spicy foods can negatively affect the well-being of the gastrointestinal system.
Reflux sufferers should follow a balanced diet, where the intake of fruit (apples, blueberries, bananas) and vegetables is preferred, but also legumes and cereals. The cooking method can definitely affect reflux, so it’s best to avoid consuming fried foods and favor cooking in the oven or steam.

Advice and good habits to follow

In addition to avoiding certain foods, it is always advisable to wait at least 4-5 hours before going to sleep, so as to allow for proper digestion. To prevent gastric contents from going back up into the esophagus, it is advisable to chew slowly and prefer light meals.
There are other tips that specialists suggest to counteract the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux:

  • avoid intense workouts when you are on a full stomach
  • reduce intense efforts after lunch
  • eliminate cigarette smoke
  • lift your head during rest and try to sleep on your back.

To limit the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux caused by stress, you can try yoga or meditation, which promote both mental and physical relaxation.

Reducing the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux with natural remedies

To reduce the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux, other remedies can also be used, such as food supplements based on aloe vera, hyaluronic acid and ginger, which can effectively reduce the inflammation of the ‘esophagus.
To reduce heartburn or acidity you can drink herbal teas with fennel or anise seeds, with the addition of ginger. To counteract reflux, another natural treatment consists of drinking the gel extracted from aloe vera leaves which promotes digestion and is characterized by strong soothing properties.

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