What To Eat For Heartburn & GERD
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QR77 radioListen to my monthly radio program with Angela Kokott, host of Calgary Today for our segment, “You are what you eat” to get the goods on healthy eating.

Listen to episode 62 part one “What to Eat for Heatburn & GERD” here:


Listen to episode 62 part two “What to Eat for Heatburn & GERD” here:


If you have ever had heartburn you know how painful and uncomfortable you can feel. Estimates suggest as many as 1 in 5 Canadians have persistent heartburn known as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). The good news is that with a little lifestyle modification and in some cases medication, you can successfully manage your symptoms.

What is heartburn?

old man stomachHeartburn occurs when the acidic liquid contents of the stomach regurgitate or reflux into the esophagus (the tube that runs between the lower throat and the stomach). This occurs occasionally in some people that have excess acid production or hiatal hernias but more commonly because of weak contractions or closings of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is the ring of muscles that sits at the end of the esophagus where it joins the stomach.

If GERD is left untreated over time the lining of the esophagus gets inflamed and can cause narrowing, ulcers or a rare condition called Barrett’s esophagus which increase the risk of esophageal cancer.

What causes GERD?

There are many reasons that GERD can develop but one of the most common reasons is because of carrying excess weight. Carrying too much body weight puts extra pressure on your stomach and diaphragm, which pushes the LES open and causes reflux. For the same reason this can also occur in pregnancy in addition to higher levels of progesterone, which relaxes the LES. Having diabetes, asthma or being on certain medication can also increase GERD.

What lifestyle factors can help prevent or manage GERD?

  1. Weight management – one of the single most effective ways to reduce reflux is to reduce your weight if you are overweight.
  2. Mini meals – smaller meals are better than larger meals since there is less pressure on the stomach thereby reducing the risk of reflux.
  3. No fluids with meals – to keep the volume of your stomach contents low to prevent too much pressure on the stomach, avoid drinking fluids at meal times.
  4. Watch for trigger foods – while everyone is different the most common foods that can irritate an inflamed esophagus or increase heartburn are those that are acidic such as citrus fruit/juice and tomatoes/tomato sauces as well as garlic, onions, chili pepper, black pepper and carbonated beverages. Watch your intake of alcohol, coffee, decaffeinated coffee, chocolate, peppermint, spearmint and fatty foods since these can lower the pressure of the LES and increase reflux.
  5. Stay upright after eating – avoid bending over or lying down for several hours after eating and consider raising the height of your bed 6-8 inches.
  6. Stop smoking – smoking weakens the LES and increases reflux.
  7. Prescription medications – in some cases your doctor will prescribe a prescription medication to help you manage your symptoms. If you are on an acid blocking medication speak to your doctor about vitamin B12 since absorption can be negatively affected. Also have your doctor monitor your iron levels regularly if you are on a proton pump inhibitor medication, which can impair iron absorption.

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"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
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Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
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Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
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Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
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Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

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I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
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Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
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Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
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“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
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