This week we will be looking into acid reflux and menopause, to see if there is any link and for tips on how to prevent acid reflux with nutrition and what you eat.
What is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is when stomach acid travels up out of the stomach towards the throat. If an individual experiences acid reflux over a long period of time, it is known as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD).
The main symptoms of acid reflux are heartburn, which is a burning feeling in the chest, and a sour taste in your mouth, caused by the stomach acid. Some people also experience symptoms such as recurring coughs or hiccups, a hoarse voice, bad breath, bloating, and nausea. These symptoms can additionally worsen following eating or when lying down or bending over.
There are a number of reasons why an individual may experience acid reflux including:
- Consuming certain foods and drinks
- Being overweight
- Stress and anxiety
- Some medications
- A hiatus hernia (when part of the stomach moves up into the chest) .
Menopause and Acid Reflux
In terms of acid reflux in menopause, one study showed that menopausal women were 2.9 times more likely to have GORD symptoms. This study compared 497 women between the ages of 25- and 60-years using surveys to identify if the individual was menopausal, if they had any gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, and if they were experiencing reflux. Around 42% of perimenopausal and 47% of menopausal participants reported GI symptoms, particularly in the upper GI tract.
The findings of this study strongly suggest that there may be a link between hormonal states of perimenopausal and menopausal women and the prevalence of GORD symptoms . Additionally, an increase in stress during the menopause , a common symptom seen in women, may also explain why the prevalence of GORD increases at this time.
Nutrition for Acid Reflux
There are a number of tips for reducing acid reflux such as ensuring that your head is raised when you lie down; losing weight if you are overweight; not wearing clothes that are tight around your waist; not smoking; trying prescribed medication, and finding ways to relax . However, what you eat, and drink may also have an impact on acid reflux symptoms.
Certain foods and drinks can trigger people with GORD and make their symptoms worse. Some common trigger foods that have been identified include acidic foods, like citrus fruits and tomatoes, alcohol, chocolate, caffeinated drinks, fatty foods, spicy foods, and mint . If you find that any of these foods trigger you it’s better to avoid them to prevent the worsening of your symptoms.
The Mediterranean diet and acid reflux
This diet is characterised by high intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and unsaturated fats . In a large cohort study, individuals following a Mediterranean diet had a lower incidence of GORD symptoms compared to individuals who were not following the diet . Additionally, a follow-up study found that there was an equal efficacy between the use of a Mediterranean diet and acid suppression therapy, a common treatment for acid reflux, suggesting a possible benefit for GORD patients . To learn more about the Mediterranean diet, read our blog post here.
Some other tips regarding nutrition relate to the timing and size of meals. The NHS recommends that individuals do not eat within 3 or 4 hours before bed . A study found that a shorter dinner-to-bed time of less than 3 hours caused more GORD symptoms than a longer dinner-to-bed time of 4 hours or more .
In terms of meal size, the NHS recommends smaller, more frequent meals to combat acid reflux .
To summarise, acid reflux is when stomach acid travels up out of the stomach towards the throat. There are numerous causes of acid reflux including stress, smoking, weight, and menopause. However, nutrition can be used to help relieve some of the symptoms of acid reflux.
Top Tips for Acid Reflux
- Avoid trigger foods like coffee, tomatoes, and citrus foods that may worsen your symptoms.
- Try a Mediterranean-style diet, which is associated with a lower incidence of acid reflux symptoms.
- Stop eating within 3 or 4 hours before bed to prevent symptoms before sleeping.
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
- Avoid lying down after eating to prevent stomach acid from travelling towards the throat.
If you suffer with symptoms of acid reflux and would like some dietary advice, please contact us to book an appointment.
Caroline Hill is a specialist menopause dietitian supporting women making dietary change. Caroline uses her extensive knowledge, skills and expertise of food and nutrition to help women manage their symptoms and weight during menopause. Caroline believes in providing sustainable, individualised, evidence-based advice to women making dietary change.