Gastrointestinal Spotlight: Causes Symptoms, and How to Manage Acid Reflux

It may feel like no matter what foods you avoid or OTC treatments you take, acid reflux is an inevitable part of your life. When I opened my practice, it was with the focus of helping people in Fort Collins who struggle with gastrointestinal disorders create customizable plans that may improve their lives. This article will help you spot the symptoms of this gastrointestinal symptom, understand some of the root causes of acid reflux, and learn the ways that you can manage your acid reflux.

What Is Acid Reflux?

When you eat, your stomach uses acid to break down the food. Normally, a ring of muscles (the esophageal sphincter) prevents the acidic contents of your stomach from traveling up into your esophagus. Acid reflux is a condition where the contents of your stomach acid go back up your esophagus.

During a reflux episode, these muscles relax and the acidic contents travel up to your sensitive esophagus. The esophagus is not equipped to handle harsh acids in the stomach, so a burning sensation and heartburn often are side effects that accompany the acid reflux episode.

Common Symptoms of Acid Reflux [1]:

  • A burning sensation in your chest after eating
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Regurgitation of food or sour liquid
  • A ‘lump’ in your throat

What is Gastroesophageal Reflux, or GERD?

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD, is when a person experiences chronic acid reflux. Gerd is incredibly common: about 1 in 5 Americans have GERD [2]. While GERD is generally treatable, you can develop serious complications like esophageal cancer if it is left untreated [3].

If you experience acid reflux at least twice a week, it’s important you visit your physician to get a formal diagnosis before scheduling a consultation with an RDN. Contact me if you live in Fort Collins and would like a referral to a doctor who specializes in gastrointestinal issues.

What Causes GERD and Acid Reflux?

There are a few causes for acid reflux and GERD, including:

  • Unequal pressure between your stomach and esophagus. When you overfill your stomach, the unequal pressure causes the ring of muscles (esophageal sphincter) to open, causing acid to flow into the esophagus. Working with a practitioner can help you address and prevent possible causes of stomach overfill.
  • Hiatal hernias. A hiatal hernia happens when your stomach and lower esophagus slide up and towards your chest. While you might not be able to feel the hiatal hernia itself, it can create acid reflux. The good news is that acid reflux may improve through dietary and lifestyle changes[4]. Creating an action plan with small, sustainable steps may help improve symptoms of hiatal hernias in your GI.
  • Trigger foods. Spicy foods, high-fat foods, caffeine, peppermint and spearmint, citrus fruits, chocolate, and alcohol may trigger an episode. Fruits and vegetables are crucial to a healthy diet, but some types of highly acidic produce may trigger acid reflux. By working with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, you can get a nutrition plan that gets you all the nutrients and vitamins you need.
  • Certain beverages. Coffee, caffeinated tea, soda, energy drinks, and alcohol are often tied to acid reflux. Creating a customized nutrition plan can help you find whole-food sources that give you the energy you need to get throughout the day, without the threat of a flare-up.

How Can I Manage Acid Reflux?

Diet and lifestyle changes can help manage symptoms, but success varies from person to person.

  • Diet and Lifestyle Strategies to Help Manage Acid Reflux:
  • Avoid large meals
  • Identify food triggers by keeping a food and symptom journal
  • Wait at least three hours between your last meal of the day and your bedtime
  • Avoid tight clothing
  • Raise the head of your bed 4-8 inches
  • Try to manage your stress levels

Get Help Managing Your Acid Reflux in Four Easy Steps:

Working with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in gastrointestinal disorders can help you manage and even reduce symptoms of acid reflux. If you are interested in learning more about what it can look like to work with a professional to manage symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders like acid reflux, give me a call today.



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Hi there! I'm Tiana

A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in nutrition counseling for digestive disorders and gut health.

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