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Can a Nutritionist Help With Acid Reflux? 

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Can a Nutritionist Help With Acid Reflux? 

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Acid reflux can feel like heartburn or like food or liquid is coming up the throat (called regurgitation) and can be very uncomfortable. 
  • Identifying and removing trigger foods from your diet can help reduce the severity of your symptoms. 
  • Working with a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you make nutrition changes to ease acid reflux symptoms. 

Acid reflux can feel like heartburn or like food and liquid are traveling back up the esophagus, which is called regurgitation. The symptoms typically start within the first two hours after eating and can detract from your dining experience. 

Working with a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you identify and eliminate trigger foods that may worsen your acid reflux. They have expert digestive health knowledge and can offer several dietary suggestions to improve your symptoms. In this article, you’ll learn more about acid reflux and why working with a registered dietitian nutritionist can be helpful.  

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Understanding Acid Reflux

When you swallow your food, it passes through your esophagus and lower esophageal sphincter into your stomach. Sometimes the sphincter weakens, and food and stomach acid are regurgitated back into the esophagus, which is called gastroesophageal reflux (GER.) For most people, this can be a very unpleasant sensation. 

Certain factors can increase the risk of acid reflux, including delayed gastric emptying, smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke, pregnancy, living with obesity or being overweight, and taking certain medications. Although some of these factors are out of your control, you can make nutrition changes to improve your symptoms. 

What Are the Symptoms of Acid Reflux?

The symptoms of acid reflux include:

  • Heartburn.
  • Belching. 
  • Nausea. 
  • Pain in the upper abdomen. 
  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing food and drink.) 
  • Odyniphagia (painful swallowing) 

The acid reflux treatment involves a combined approach of nutrition, lifestyle changes, and medications called proton pump inhibitors. Your primary care provider can answer any questions you have about this medication. 

Why Nutrition Matters for Acid Reflux

Everything you eat, including how quickly you eat and the portion sizes, can impact acid reflux. Making nutrition changes can improve your symptoms and help you feel better after eating.  

Removing typical culprits that can worsen acid reflux is a great place to start changing your diet. The known trigger foods you may want to avoid include: 

  • High-fat foods - full-fat dairy products, anything deep-fried, and rich desserts. 
  • Caffeine products - coffee, some teas, and energy drinks. 
  • Chocolate - the natural caffeine and cocoa compounds can worsen heartburn. 
  • Mint - herbal tea and mint-flavored food products.
  • Spicy foods - fresh chili peppers, dry spices, and pickled products. The spice aggravates the esophagus and worsens symptoms of acid reflux. 
  • Alcohol - beer, wine, liquors, and mixed cocktails. 
  • Carbonated beverages - sparkling water, sodas, fizzy kombucha drinks. 
  • Acidic foods - oranges, limes, pineapple, tomato-based products, vinegar-based salad dressings, and raw onion. 

Can a Nutritionist Help With Acid Reflux?

A registered dietitian nutritionist can help you identify specific foods that worsen your acid reflux symptoms. After removing them, you may still benefit from further nutritional changes supporting a healthy digestive system. 

  • Switching to several smaller meals throughout the day instead of three large meals. This lessens the digestive burden after eating and may decrease the severity of acid reflux symptoms. 
  • Slowing down how quickly you eat allows your digestive system to thoroughly break down meals and move the food further away from the esophagus, which reduces the chances of regurgitation.
  • Finding ways to include your favorite foods without aggravating your acid reflux. Finding joy in your meals is important to building a sustainable and balanced diet. 

Benefits of Working With a Nutritionist to Manage Acid Reflux

Removing foods from your diet to ease your acid reflux may create nutritional gaps in your diet, which may expose you to nutritional deficiencies. Working with a dietitian will ensure you manage your symptoms while still getting enough vitamins, minerals, and pleasure from your meals. 

Another benefit of working with a dietitian is the access to highly individualized care. Most digestive disorders and symptoms present differently per person, and working with a nutrition expert can help you find solutions that work for you long-term. 

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Ways a Nutritionist Can Help With Acid Reflux

Nutrition counseling sessions can effectively increase your knowledge of managing acid reflux. Spending time with a dietitian allows you to ask questions, make goals, and stay accountable. 

A typical initial session with a dietitian may include a diet recall (including the timing of your meals), your level of physical activity, a review of your symptoms, identifying trigger foods that worsen your acid reflux, your stress levels, and medications and relevant details from your medical history. This data will help your dietitian make a unique care plan to help resolve your acid reflux. 

Nourish can connect you with a registered dietitian. If you’re ready to take the next step in your health journey, consider booking a virtual appointment

Creating an Eating Plan for Managing Acid Reflux

When you build an eating plan for acid reflux, you may start by omitting foods that exacerbate your symptoms. Try to eat smaller meals more often throughout the day and choose mild options that are easy to digest. Nourish created a 7-day acid reflux meal plan to help get you started. 

Other Strategies and Lifestyle Changes

Gravity helps to pull food downwards through your digestive system, and lying down after eating can interfere with this natural process. While horizontal, digestive fluids are more likely to travel upwards and aggravate the esophagus, worsening acid reflux symptoms. 

To minimize these effects, you should avoid lying down for 45-60 minutes after eating, especially before sleeping. Eating right before you go to bed can trigger painful acid reflux symptoms, which can impair your sleep quality. If you can’t avoid eating before bed, consider propping a pillow to a 45-degree angle to help your upper body stay upright while resting. 

Quitting smoking should be a priority if you currently use tobacco products. Cigarettes and other inhalation products can worsen acid reflux symptoms and make it harder for your body to heal.  

A systematic review of studies that included 1.5 million participants indicated a link between mental health and acid reflux. If you suffer from ongoing stress, anxiety, or low mood, you may want to seek counseling to learn strategies to manage these conditions.

Takeaway

A bout of acid reflux is normal, but ongoing heartburn should be addressed. Feeling uncertain about what to eat can be stressful, which may amplify your symptoms. Fortunately, you can work with a registered dietitian to figure out a way of eating that helps you feel your best. 

Most people will feel better after eating smaller amounts of food more often throughout the day by reducing their intake of citrusy or high-fat foods and sometimes using medication. If your acid reflux returns, you may want to see a specialist to review possible next steps. 

Managing Acid Reflux with an Nutritionist 

Acid reflux can be uncomfortable and painful, but seeking nutrition support from a registered dietitian can help improve your symptoms. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can a nutritionist help with GERD?

A registered dietitian nutritionist can help with GERD by offering nutrition recommendations to ease your symptoms. Combining nutrition and lifestyle changes, as well as prescribed medications from your primary care provider, can help you feel your best.

What specialist is best for acid reflux?

A gastroenterologist can help you with acid reflux. They are specialized doctors who work exclusively on disorders that impact the digestive system.

What type of nutritional therapy is recommended for GERD?

Eliminating trigger foods is the first place to start. For most people, this includes reducing their intake of high-fat foods, carbonated beverages, spicy items, chocolate, mint, and anything acidic. When you start to feel better, you can experiment with reintroducing these foods to gauge how well you tolerate them.

References

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