Indian Diet Plan for GERD Management
Table Of Content
Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.
These profound words were spoken by the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, often hailed as the father of modern medicine.
His wisdom encapsulated a timeless truth: what we put into our bodies has a profound impact on our health and well-being. Yet, in our fast-paced modern lives, we often take for granted the significance of this age-old adage.
We consume without consideration, not just in terms of what we eat, but also:
- when we eat,
- the quantities we consume,
- the choices we make—be it plant-based or animal-based,
- minimally processed or heavily laden with additives.
These choices impact ecosystem of our digestive system, affecting our daily comfort and long-term health.
The good news? Change is not only possible but often doesn't require a complete overhaul of your diet or a hefty investment. Small, consistent changes can lead to increase in vitality and freedom from troublesome stomach issues.
So, let's explore how we can nurture our digestive health, one mindful bite at a time.
Today, we're diving into a crucial topic: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD (or GORD if you are from the UK).
Its one the most common disease affecting our digestive tracts. A research study reveals that an astonishing 15% of our country’s population has been affected by GERD.
Reading this article, you’re going to understand:
- what causes GERD,
- its symptoms,
- foods to avoid and include.
Also, how you can beat GERD with mindful eating, regulating/eliminating unhealthy lifestyle habits, regular exercise, and a balanced plant based food plan that remains relevant to our Indian palettes.
So, let's start by understanding what GERD is and how it differs from acid reflux.
What is GERD?
GERD/ GORD, or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, is a chronic condition where stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing discomfort and irritation.
It’s like when you have a “backflow” of acid from your stomach to your throat, which can be uncomfortable and painful.
You may be familiar with the term or experience of an ‘acid reflux’? That’s what happens you have eaten way too much, or after an alcohol or a coffee binge.
The contents of your stomach reverse into the esophagus from whence they arrived, resulting in a terribly unpleasant burning sensation in your chest. It’s also called ‘heartburn’, although it’s your stomach that’s really on fire!
Well, Acid reflux is not the same as GERD. It is but a symptom of GERD.
Often acid refluxes can progress towards GERD, resulting in intensified refluxes. You may even regurgitate (vomit) stomach contents, have difficulty swallowing, coughing and even chest pain. GERD is not to be taken lightly!
Is GERD the Same as IBS?
Not at all. IBS affects a completely different part of our digestive system.
The infamous IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), may effect your intestine, or rectal region. IBS is also classified as being an "auto- immune" diseases, meaning, your body is attacking its own gut lining. Depending on the part of your intestine that is affected, IBS is further subdivided into two categories:
IBS leaves you feeling uncomfortable, constipated, bloated, gassy, bloody stools, food intolerances and bad gut motility.
Does GERD Lead to Cancer?
GERD itself isn’t directly connected to cancer.
However, untreated GERD does definitely boost the possibilities of developing esophageal adenocarcinoma. Studies have linked GERD with a double-fold increase in the risk of stomach cancer.
When struggling with GERD, it becomes of the utmost importance to get to the root- cause of the disease and irradiate the cause. Symptom management alone will only band- aid your symptoms but will not lead to cancer prevention.
Working with multiple clients for GERD management, I often see that clients just start avoiding foods that cause acid- reflux. But this is not treating the disease. The real solution is to fix the intestinal lining. A sign of a healthy gut is being able to eat what you wnat without having symptoms.
What is Hiatus Hernia, and Could It Be Causing GERD Symptoms?
Think of a hiatus hernia like a small breach in the barrier that separates your stomach from your chest.
Your diaphragm, the vigilant guardian of this barrier, usually keeps digestive juices and acid locked within the stomach's stronghold.
However, in the presence of a hiatus hernia, the gap between the esophagus and stomach widens (as shown in the picture above). This is as if there's a hidden gateway for stomach acid's to sneak past the defenses and venture into the territory of your esophagus.
While a hiatus hernia can contribute to the development of GERD, not everyone with a hiatus hernia will necessarily develop GERD. Other factors, such as diet, lifestyle, and genetic predisposition, can also play a role in the development of GERD.
Is GERD Reversible?
GERD can indeed be reversible with the right protocol.
Statistics show that 1 in 4 people in the United states suffer with weekly acid reflux episodes, but less than 5% population in Asia experiences GERD. This shows that your eating habits and lifestyle factors play a role in your disease progression.
Overall, high- fat intake is associated with increased risk for GERD but high- fiber intake can be protective. Guess where you find fiber- plants! Plant's also are mostly low in fats, particularly saturated fats (the bad kind), giving you an added benefit.
A plant-centric diet, rich in whole foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains, can significantly alleviate GERD symptoms. These foods are naturally low in fat and reduce the production of stomach acid, creating a more alkalizing environment for your gut. Additionally, plant-based diets are linked to weight loss, making them an excellent choice for those carrying excess pounds, a known GERD risk factor.
Losing weight is paramount in GERD reversal. Excess weight places pressure on the abdomen, increasing the likelihood of acid reflux. Shedding those extra pounds can provide profound relief.
Boosting non-exercise activities (NEAT) like walking and standing is another game-changer. These activities aid digestion, prevent acid from pooling in the stomach, and reduce the risk of reflux.
Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and regular meal times helps regulate digestion, preventing late-night meals and erratic sleep patterns that often exacerbate GERD.
Lastly, quitting alcohol consumption is vital. Alcohol relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing acid to flow back into the esophagus. Eliminating or moderating alcohol intake can significantly reduce GERD symptoms.
These simple yet effective changes can bring about relief, enhancing your overall well-being and reducing the discomfort associated with GERD..
Top Five Foods to Avoid with GERD Diet.
To manage GERD effectively, it's crucial to be mindful of what you consume. Here are the top five foods to avoid with a GERD diet:
High-fat dairy products, such as whole milk we use in chai and mithais and dishes like paneer tikka, can be major triggers for acid reflux. Besides this, adulteration of dairy in the recent times makes it even more susceptible to additives that can disrupt your gut lining. Watch this:
Simply stop dairy consumption. as someone who has not touched dairy for 8 plus years now, I can safely say you will get enough calcium and proteins from the plants you eta in your diet. I work with clients globally to help them make healthy switches and now once have we had to worry about any nutrients missing from milk.
That being said, if you drink milk or eat yogurt or ghee from a taste perspective, try and make the switches to plant- based options like cashew milk, almond milk, oats milk, soy curds, vegan ghee etc. You can very well make these at home and ensure they are free of additives.
Here is one recipe to get you started:
The Great Indian culinary scene is full of delectable sweets and snacks, many of which contain artificial sweeteners and flavorings. We all know sugar is bad, but often welcome stevia, sugarfree sweeteners, brown sugar, coconut sugar, jaggery and honey.
Bad news, all of these equally harm your stomach.
These additives can be harsh on the esophagus and may worsen GERD symptoms. Be cautious when indulging in desserts like gulab jamun or easy snacks like maggie and ketchup. Same applies to those ‘fruit’ & energy drinks, diet soda's etc that we see stocked in our supermarkets.
Now while these look like a lot of changes, with a little bit of guidance and right direction, is in not worth it? Especially if it can prevent cancer or IBS in the future.
Some Indian meat dishes, like butter chicken or lamb curry, are high in fat, making them potential culprits for GERD exacerbation. Fatty meats can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing stomach acid to rise into the esophagus.
Meat is also home to toxins such as PCBs and high in AGE's (advanced glycation end- products). Both of these are cause for GERD. Being naturally acidic, meat consumption promotes the growth of inflammatory bacteria in the gut, thus, exacerbating your symptoms.
While eggs are a staple in many Indian dishes, they can be a common trigger for acid reflux. Dishes like masala omelets may need to be eliminated or substituted with egg alternatives. Here is why:
Oil and Saturated Fats:
Indian cuisine often uses rich oils and saturated fats in cooking. Dishes like biryani or fried snacks can be delicious but might relax the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing stomach acid to flow back up.
Try lighter cooking methods like steaming, oil-free cooking or use healthier oils sparingly to reduce the risk of GERD symptoms.
One common technique we use with clients is a "raw first" approach. Eat a fruit, smoothie or salad before a meal. This acts as an appetite suppressor, is naturally low in fats, does not require oil's for preparation and also high in fiber.
Top Five Foods to Eat for GERD Management.
Not only is it important to know what to exclude, it is equally important to eat the right kinds of alkalizing foods to help you reverse your disorder. Here are the top five superfoods I include when curating a meal plan for GERD management for clients.
Remember Daadi always eating Isabgol? There is a lot of science to this ancient old fiberous herb. This soluble fibre is a digestive superhero. Psyllium husk acts like a soothing balm for the digestive tract, helping to ease irritation and discomfort caused by GERD.
Psyllium husk acts as a PREbiotic fiber. Meaning, it is literally food for the anti- inflammatory good gut bacteria. The more they feed on this husk, the more they thrive and grow in number. This inturn alkalizes the gut environment and keeps acidity down.
I suggest a tbsp of isabgol daily, broken in two servings of 1/2 tbsp each. You can have the same anytime of the day.
Pulses and Lentils:
Thank God for Dal!
Pulses, such as lentils and chickpeas, also promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. They're rich in fibre and provide the growth of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFA's are anti- inflammatory in nature. This helps prevent auto- immune diseases too!
The variety of dishes that can be prepared using pulses and lentils is vast and fairly easy to execute right in your homes! From simple sprouts to sundal salads, dals of course, dosas and endless varieties of hummus!
Now if your gut health is really bad, pulses maybe hard for you to digest. The solution is then not to avoid such an important and healing food group, but to work with an expert to slowly introduce them to your diet.
With clients who often have a very poor gut, I will often introduce easy to digest pulses like mung daal and masoor daal first before the harder pulses like chickpeas and kidney beans. I will also make sure the client soaks the pulses for well over 8 hours, washes them well and throws away the soaking water, cooks them well and mashes before consumption. Various other techniques are adopted such as adding lemon before serving etc.
In no time do we see clients being able to consume all pulses with no efforts.
Prefer non-citrus fruits like bananas, papayas, chickoos, mangoes and apple. These choices are less likely to trigger GERD symptoms compared to citrus fruits. However, the objective again is not to keep citrus foods out forever, but overtime build a strong gut lining to eat all fruits.
Incorporating fruits into your diet, at least 3 servings a day, adds essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for overall well-being and making you feel light (and it shows), at your very best!
I suggest my clients to add a fruit before every meal, this way, they stick upto their goal of 3-a-day and do not forget to incorporate them.
Now while fruits are essential, avoid fruit juices and canned fruits.
Leafy greens like Kale and lettuce, are alkaline in nature. They can help neutralize excess stomach acid, providing relief from the burning sensation associated with GERD.
Leafy greens are also rich in dietary fiber, which can aid in digestion. Fiber helps regulate bowel movements and prevent constipation, which can contribute to GERD symptoms by increasing abdominal pressure. By maintaining regular bowel movements, leafy greens can help reduce the pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), potentially reducing the risk of acid reflux.
Make a habit to have a simple green smoothie. Bananas, greens like mint, dates, nuts or nut butters and a little water. That’s really all it takes to make yourself a delicious green smoothie!
Here’s an idea: You can replace the paneer in ‘palak panner’ with sweet potatoes and tofu for an awesome main course curry!
These tiny powerhouses are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce inflammation in the esophagus, soothing the discomfort caused by GERD.
Flaxseeds are also rich in insoluble fiber and lignin's. Both of these keep the peristalsis movement in the gut going, thus, avoiding being constipated.
Did you know that flaxseeds can be used to make chutneys, rotis, laddoos, mukhwas and much more?
I insist my clients add 2 tbsp of raw flaxseed powder per day to their meals per day.
Top Five Lifestyle Changes for GERD Management.
When it comes to any disease management, it really is a combination of exercise, nutrition and lifestyle changes. I have seen the clients who benefit the most out of my program are read to change the way they live, because that is what is causing them their current diseases.
Not to say GERD doesn’t affect people on the skinner side, it absolutely can and it does.
However, we can’t deny that having excess (subjective to your build, and other factors) weight on your body can put immense pressure on digestive system, worsening GERD.
Don’t know where to start?
Boost NEAT (Non- Exercise Activity Thermogenesis):
Almost everyone is good at going to the gym for one hour per day. But what really matters is what you do for the remaining 23 hours.
Sitting idol after meals and limited activity all day can make GERD symptoms worse. In fact I can go to an extent to say that even if you do not exercise for one hour daily but are physically active all day, such as taking the stairs, indulging in gardening or walking the dog etc, you are more likely to see an improvement in your condition.
Increase non-exercise activity like walking and even just, standing. I know, while you’re at work, it seems difficult to be active, but simple tasks like using a standing desk for a few hours daily makes a difference.
A smart way to incorporate NEAT is, getting a smartwatch to track your activity levels and working in short periods of time (20-30 mins) and taking short breaks (5-10 mins) to walk, stretch and recharge. it’s called the Pomodoro Practice
Ditch the Dairy:
This is the most effective change I have seen after working with a 1000+ GERD clients globally.
Ditching dairy, in all its forms, is crucial for effective GERD management. Dairy products are notorious for triggering acid reflux and exacerbating GERD symptoms.
Owing to their high fat content, acidic nature, lactose content and not to get me started on the horrors of animal abuse happening in the dairy ‘industry’, ditching dairy, in your own time, just makes sense.
Fortunately, today's market offers an array of dairy alternatives made from peanuts, cashews, coconuts, and more. These alternatives are not only readily available but can also be easily prepared at home, allowing you to enjoy the creamy textures and flavours you love without compromising on your GERD management.
Making the switch to dairy-free options is a small yet significant step towards a more comfortable and symptom-free life.
Follow a Healthy Circadian Rhythm:
Very underestimated and overlooked. We believe we can ‘get by’ with irregular sleeping and napping patterns. 100% truth is, consistency in sleep and meal times can aid digestion.
People in night- shift work suffer from more GERD and indigestion symptoms inspite of eating healthy than people who work day- shift. Light exposure late at night, late- night meals and irregular sleep timings can trigger hormonal imbalances that affect much more than your gut.
Its simple, wake up with the sunrise and sleep with the sunset. Hire a sleep expert if needed and work on your sleep cycle. We personally help clients curate a bedtime routine, making it easy for them to sleep on time and fall into deep sleep fast.
Stop Alcohol Consumption:
Alcohol can seem like the perfect relaxant after a long’s day work or at those social situations and gatherings, where it seems like everyone’s got a drink in their hands! Here are two among the many ways alcohol can worsen your symptoms.
Alcohol can slow down the emptying of the stomach's contents into the small intestine. When the stomach takes longer to empty, it can lead to increased pressure in the stomach, which can push stomach acid and contents into the esophagus.
Alcohol also relaxes our esophageal splinter. That’s not good. Additionally, with the wide spread production, distribution & consumption of this ‘deadly elixir’ in all its forms is troublesome.
Should I Follow a Low-FODMAP Diet for GERD Management?
The question of whether to follow a Low-FODMAP diet for GERD management is an important one, and it's crucial to understand. If you were trying to google solutions for GERD, you might have seen this word pop- up a lot.
The term FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols, which are types of short-chain carbohydrates that the small intestine absorbs poorly.
These can trigger digestive distress, including GERD symptoms like cramping, diarrhea, constipation, stomach bloating, and gas.
The Low FODMAP diet is a three-step elimination diet designed to identify and manage food triggers. It involves:
Initially, you stop consuming high-FODMAP foods to reduce symptoms and, in some cases, manage abnormally high levels of intestinal bacteria, such as in SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth).
After the elimination phase, high-FODMAP foods are gradually reintroduced one at a time to identify which ones may be problematic.
Based on your individual responses, you can avoid or limit specific high-FODMAP foods while enjoying others without worry.
One study shows that a low- FODMAP diet can reduce GERD symptoms by 86%.
However, FODMAP's are not always the right indication of weather your gut is improving. Everyone following a low- FODMAP diet will not see results. Besides, staying low- FODMAP for too long can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Thus, work with an expert, who has spend years training for different nutritional protocols when trying to improve GERD symptoms.
Indian Diet Plan for GERD Management.
While there is no one size fits all for GERD management, the below meal plan will give you a direction to understanding the type of foods you must eat.
Please keep in mind that the below is only a sample plan and not a treatment protocol. Based on your symptoms, you will have to work with a team of experts to understand what best suits you.
We have doctors, functional medicine experts and nutrition coaches on our team to work with clients for individualizing their treatment plan. Feel free to contact us by filling in the form before for more information.
That being said, here is a sample plan:
Remember, GERD management is a journey,
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