GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) affects an estimated 20 percent of the U.S. population — and finding effective treatment options is more important than ever. Did you know that many people are able to control their symptoms just through dietary changes, which may also reduce their need for medication? While the world observes GERD Awareness Week, this could be the perfect time to consult your doctor for advice on the treatment alternatives that are best for you.
GERD Awareness Week timeline
GERD Awareness Week began
This event is listed in the U.S. National Health Observances calendar. Its mission is "to inform, assist, and support people affected by gastrointestinal (GI) disorders."
GERD was identified
American gastroenterologist Asher Winkelstein first described the condition , although symptoms appeared in medical records dating back to 1925.
The endoscope was developed
Dr. John Macintyre, a Scottish doctor who specialized in investigation of the larynx, developed the self-illuminated endoscope at Glasgow Royal Infirmary in Scotland (which was also one of the first hospitals to have electricity). Today, upper endoscopy is a common procedure used to diagnose GERD and related conditions.
How to Observe GERD Awareness Week
Plan GERD-friendly menus with your family
Generally, the foods to avoid are the ones that are high in acid or caffeine, like citrus fruits, cranberries, coffee, chocolate, peppermint, and spicy foods. But that still leaves plenty of delicious options! Try simplifying a little. French cuisine, for example, is based on the concept of starting with the highest-quality ingredients, and using cooking techniques that enhance the flavor of those ingredients. Roasting a whole chicken that's been stuffed with fresh herbs is a classic of French cooking, and would be a perfect centerpiece for a GERD-friendly feast.
Cook something tasty for a friend with GERD
Maybe you have a friend dealing with GERD who has a birthday coming up? You could dream up a special celebratory dessert to show your support. This time of the year, almost anything with apples would be a great choice. (You may want to check first just to be sure your friend doesn't have other food issues, like dairy or gluten intolerance. It's fun to surprise people, but maybe not this time!)
Make a commitment to healthier eating
Even though it's a little early for resolutions, there's no time like the present for committing to healthy eating habits — a little at a time. Drink just a little less coffee, for example, then perhaps try moderating the amount of heat-producing spices when you cook. And simply reducing the overall quantity of food you take in at each meal can make a difference, as will eating more slowly, which in itself has been proven to aid digestion. Hint: If you're having trouble slowing down, try focusing only on your food (i.e. no multi-tasking while you eat).
3 Tiny Changes That Can Make A Big Impact On Your Health
An apple a day... instead of an orange
Oranges, cranberries, and most citrus fruits are highly acidic, so this week, try an apple or banana for a gentler-on-your-system alternative.
Have an early (and leisurely) dinner
Giving yourself at least two hours between eating dinner and going to bed can significantly reduce the possibility of heartburn — and eating slowly helps even more.
If you think there's a possibility you may have GERD or a related condition, keeping a record of your symptoms, including what you eat and drink, sleep issues, and days and times of symptoms, will help your doctor tremendously in giving you an accurate diagnosis.
Why GERD Awareness Week is Important
GERD awareness could save your life
If you've never heard of GERD (which is related to acid reflux disease), you may be suffering from it without realizing it. Without treatment, over time, it's possible for GERD to lead to precancerous conditions. And even if you're perfectly healthy yourself, knowing more about GERD may help you recognize symptoms in a friend or family member, and encourage them to seek medical attention.
It reminds us all to be conscious of how we eat (and drink)
Even if you've never had any symptoms of GERD, it's possible to trigger an episode by over-indulging in food and drinks that are highly acidic. This week is a great time to educate yourself and your family about the role your diet plays in this disease; it's not about depriving yourself, but more about learning how to enjoy treats in moderation, to help prevent GERD and related conditions.
It can help to enhance your quality of life
By learning about the foods and beverages that can help support a healthier gastrointestinal system, it may be possible to not just control your GERD symptoms, but to heal your body over time. (This may not apply in everyone's situation; be sure to talk with your own doctor about all possible treatment options that would be appropriate for you.) Making dietary changes does take commitment, but it's for a good cause: helping you enjoy your life to the fullest.