Acid Reflux vs. GERD and How Can I Decrease it? | Celiac Disease

There are many symptoms that come along with celiac disease, but did you know that acid reflux and heartburn can be one of them? The last few months I have personally been experiencing more bloating after eating, waking up with phlegm in the mornings or coughing at night, and the newest symptom I have been getting is a sharp pain in my upper right abdomen.

I am still in the process of healing my gut as my TTG level is now at 28 (it should be 0-12), so it’s still high and causing damage to my small intestine. I have been having a wide range of symptoms which has caused me to try a wide range of different diets to fix the issue. One of the diets was paleo, for those of you who do not know, it is high in fats and low in carbs (no grains at all). I believe this caused havoc on my gallbladder and stomach having to break down so much good fats in my diet that I now have added issues (more on this in a different blog post). 

Acid Reflux vs. GERD

Acid reflux can range in severity from mild to serious. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is chronic and a more severe form of acid reflux. There is also heartburn which is a symptom of both acid reflux and GERD. 

Acid Reflux

The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is a muscle that connects the esophagus and the stomach. It is the muscle that is in charge of tightening the esophagus after food passes by it so the food does not come back up. If the muscle is weak or doesn’t tighten properly, the food can make it’s way back up the esophagus and thus making the effects of acid reflux.

Symptoms of acid reflux:

  • Heartburn
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Bitter or sour taste in the mouth
  • Burning and pressure into the breastbone

GERD

The chronic form of acid reflux is known as GERD. This is diagnosed when acid reflux happens more then twice a week or there is inflammation in the esophagus. The pain caused by GERD may or may not be relieved with antacids or over the counter medications.

Symptoms of GERD: 

  • Bad breath
  • Damage to tooth enamel
  • Heartburn
  • Feeling of food coming back up into your mouth or regurgitation
  • Chest pain
  • Persistent dry cough
  • Asthma
  • Trouble swallowing

Most people will experience heartburn right after something they ate or laying down right after they eat.

What can I do to decrease acid reflux?

WITHDRAWAL OF RANITIDINE

In April 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

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requested that all forms of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) ranitidine (Zantac) be removed from the U.S. market. This recommendation was made because unacceptable levels of NDMA, a probable carcinogen (cancer-causing chemical), were found in some ranitidine products. If you’re prescribed ranitidine, talk with your doctor about safe alternative options before stopping the drug. If you’re taking OTC ranitidine, stop taking the drug and talk with your healthcare provider about alternative options. Instead of taking unused ranitidine products to a drug take-back site, dispose of them according to the product’s instructions or by following the FDA’s guidance

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.

From the Healthline website

There are over the counter drug and prescription drug options. However, if you don’t want to be stuck taking drugs for a long period of time or want a more natural alternative, you could try the following:

First off, stop eating big meals before bed time. Eating huge meals, especially fatty or greasy foods right before bed is a huge recipe for disaster when you have acid reflux. Your body needs time to digest the food with you up right, the minute you lay down after a big meal it will increase the chances of the food coming back up your esophagus. Try to stop eating and consuming anything at least 2-3 hours before bed time to allow your body to properly digest the food you have eaten. The three top triggers for heartburn is large meals, fatty foods and late-night meals.

So onto the next point, large portions of food. When you eat a lot of food at once and your stomach becomes stretched causing the stuffed feeling and a distended stomach, this puts a lot of pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). This will happen with any large amounts of food, not just specific foods that will trigger your heart burn.

Now, fatty foods. This type of food sits around in your stomach longer which makes your body produce more acid to break it down and this will irritate your digestive system. Science has also shown that fatty foods will relax your LES which will in turn cause that increased amount of stomach acid to shoot back up your esophagus. This isn’t just the “bad” fatty foods either, this counts for the good fats as well like avocado, nuts, seeds, and oils. The good fats are good for your body, just everything in moderation…maybe don’t sit there with a jar of nut butter and a spoon until half the jar is gone like I have…whoops.

Common food that trigger heartburn:

  • Peppermint
  • Alcohol, specifically red wine
  • Caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea and energy drinks
  • Chocolate
  • Citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, amongst many others
  • Tomatoes
  • Black pepper, raw onion, garlic, and spicy foods
  • Some meats, as they are high in fatty acids and cholesterol
  • Some oils, small amounts of olive oil seems to be okay
  • High amounts of salt
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Some medications like Ibuprofen, asthma medications, progesterone, medicines for Parkinson’s disease, and certain supplements like iron and potassium

You might be thinking, what can I eat? Here are some foods to include in your diet:

  • Proteins from low-cholesterol sources such as salmon, trout, almonds, lean poultry, beans and lentils
  • Certain carbohydrates like fruit, vegetables, potatoes and some whole grains
  • Vitamin C rich foods from fruits and vegetables
  • Fruits high in fiber, magnesium, and potassium like apples, berries, pears, avocado, melons, peaches and bananas
  • Eggs, in spite of their cholesterol content, you could also opt for egg whites
  • Green vegetables like kale, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts

Other lifestyle changes to help decrease acid reflux:

  1. Do not over eat. Try having 5 to 6 smaller meals throughout the day instead of 3 massive meals a day.
  2. Do not eat before bedtime and do not lay down right after eating. Allow 2-3 hours of digestion before you head to bed, once you lay down it’s harder on your body to digest the food you have just eaten. Allow the food to pass through your stomach first to the small intestine before you lay down.
  3. Exercise. If you are over weight this will put pressure on the LES and therefore cause heartburn. But also keep in mind you should allow your body to digest the food for 2 hours before you exercise vigorously as this may increase the likelihood of acid reflux. Abdominal work such as sit ups or leg lifts will irritate the stomach, same with jogging as this will have the contents in your stomach slush around and this will cause the contents in your stomach to go back up if you have a weak LES. However, this is not an excuse to not workout, physical exercise is a must need in each day, just be sure you allow your food to digest for at least 2 hours before you do any exercising, a light walk will be okay right after eating.
  4. Going along with exercise, try to not sit in a crunched position at your desk or in poor posture right after eating as this will put pressure on the LES. Also, try to not wear any clothes that are restricting on your belt line as this will also cause pressure to your stomach.
  5. Eat intuitively. Do not eat with the TV going or YouTube, no distractions such as your phone or reading. Just you and your food should be at the table. This will allow your body to be more aware of it’s hunger cues so you do not eat so much food that you end up with a distended stomach.

Remember that learning why your acid reflux happens and how to control it may help decrease discomfort of acid reflux. Try some simple lifestyle changes to decrease your acid reflux, and know that having it every once in a while is no cause for concern, but when you are experiencing it 1-2 times a week for an extended period of time, it is time to call your doctor to speak about your symptoms. Pain in your upper right abdomen can be acid reflux but it may be another condition including your liver or gallbladder, so it is always a good idea to consult with your family physician.

References

https://www.healthline.com/health/gerd/heartburn-vs-acid-reflux

https://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/triggers#3

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/314690#what-is-gerd

https://www.verywellhealth.com/celiac-disease-symptoms-4014337