Eat to Ease Acid Reflux?

Health & Fitness | October 28, 2009 | By

Included recipe: apple-ginger sorbet

This week my Uncle David e-mailed asking for thoughts on nutrition to help him deal with acid reflux, and being prone to similar gastrointestinal gingergingerreactions as those he struggles with, I really wanted to help. Everyone knows someone who’s afflicted with GERD, and at the very least we all have tummy trouble. One thing is definitely clear, however, and that’s the fact each person is hit in an individual way. For me, it’s more of a sometime basis, and while in hindsight on each occasion, the triggers seem generally clear, they aren’t easily recognized in the moment, or therefore warded off. Like a recurring bad dream, these episodes strike unpredictably, unwelcome and all too familiar. In a nutshell, the causes are usually stress, dehydration, or a combination of both. For my uncle, however, it’s more of an ongoing trial, though it’s pretty obvious that stress plays a major factor for him, too. You wouldn’t guess from a casual meeting. His engaging sense of humor,  purposefully treading the line between being charmingly childlike and simply childish (and I mean that as a compliment, Uncle David!), alongside some good Peter Pan style genes,  deceptively convey the impression of someone quite carefree, and he easily passes for a generation younger.

Knowing the pain my uncle copes with can be really severe, and definitely a conundrum meant for a doctor as opposed to a well-meaning niece, I felt a little humbled and mixed about passing on nutritional thoughts. At the same time, I figured lending a hand in a little extra research couldn’t hurt, and what I found echoed the sound advice I’ve been given from my doctors for as long as I can remember. And, given my unfortunate leanings toward the psychosomatic, the more I pondered my uncle’s query, the more I discovered myself beginning to feel unwell, and before long, too intimately entangled with the common symptoms (yeah, thanks, Uncle Dave). Although this was more than a little annoying, it seemed like a good time to experiment, and I also got a pretty good reminder of the little nutritional “tricks” that have worked for me. Some of them are probably little more than old wives’ tales, but some have substantial merit based on studies behind them (such as ginger as an anti-nausea aid). Additionally, I decided to try out an apple ginger sorbet recipe, which is really a combining of two different sorbet recipes I found, with the sugar content reduced. Since slow sips of ginger tea is one of my favorite remedies when I feel the old swelling discomfort coming on, and given that psyching myself into pseudo acid-reflux-ville put me into a state of not really wanting to eat anything, soft and light sorbet struck me as something that could offer a feeling of cleansing relief. THIS time, it did hit the spot…but take that with a grain of salt. After all, I only had a stomach ache caused by my mind. : )

Most of the literature out there on GERD emphasizes the don’ts. For instance, don’t have too much (if any):

  • caffeine
  • alcohol
  • fatty, greasy foods
  • highly acidic foods

All these apparently loosen the sphincter to the esophagus, along with being less than healthy.

Given the individual nature of acid reflux, it’s not so easy to pinpoint the do’s, but here are a few natural suggestions that stand out:

  • Ginger: Boil sliced ginger root in water and drink as tea, or nibble on crystallized ginger slices. I love Triple Leaf Ginger Tea (thanks, Christina, for introducing me to it!). Ginger is said to increase digestive enzymes and also muscle fitness in the digestive tract.
  • Apple cider vinegar: I’ve read that 2-3 undiluted tablespoons can help an attack, and that the same amount diluted in equal parts water can help prevent one, but I personally prefer a smaller amount, a tablespoon in a cup of water. Drinking apple cider vinegar in water is said to be salubrious in general, and a cleansing, healthful way to start each day.
  • Plain apples: This one I think is fiction, but many people claim it helps. Hasn’t worked for me, but that’s just me.
  • Almonds: Almond oil supposedly helps neutralize stomach acids. The consensus seems to be to chew 6.
  • Keeping hydrated as a prevention aid: since I know I’ve created bouts of discomfort and other physical responses by not paying enough attention to hydration, this makes sense to me. Plus, it’s another case of great advice for everyone.
  • Raw honey: can’t find why, but it keeps coming up as something that might soothe.
  • Chamomile tea: well documented soothing effects for various ailments.

These just amount to a few little ideas among heaps of advice floating out there! I’d love other thoughts…let me know what works for you! And finally, since all I crave in my own instances usually comes down to peppermint (I read this is deceptive, however, and that you feel soothed momentarily, but it also aggravates the problem by loosening the sphincter to the esophagus like the other “don’ts”), ginger, and bland crackers, it was tough to envision a suitable recipe that might be worth including here. I decided to experiment with a sorbet, and tried to combine a few of the suggested “do’s”.

Apple-ginger sorbet

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound apples
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2  cup raw honey
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp fresh minced ginger

Preparation:

Peel and slice the apples and freeze overnight.

Next day, make a simple syrup with honey, sugar and water, bringing liquid to a boil. Add  ginger and simmer for 5 minutes.

Puree apples and syrup mixture in food processor until smooth.

Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions.

*If freezing overnight, let sit at room temperature until slightly softened, break up with a spoon, and run through the blender to serve.

Flickr photo credit– cfwhitney

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