3 Eating Behaviour Strategies for Reflux Management

Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a medical condition that occurs when the liquid contents of the stomach flow back up into the food pipe. This often causes heartburn and discomfort and can be a chronic health problem for some people.

The symptoms of acid reflux can vary from person to person. Common symptoms include a burning sensation in the chest or throat, an acidic taste in the mouth, difficulty swallowing, chest pain, and even coughing or wheezing. In some cases, individuals may experience nausea or even vomiting.

When it comes to causes of acid reflux, there are a few common contributing factors. Obesity, pregnancy, and smoking have all been linked to the development of GERD. Additionally, certain foods such as spicy or fatty foods can worsen symptoms. AS always you should always speak with a healthcare professional about your treatment options before starting any therapy for GERD.

The following 3 eating behaviour strategies have been shown to be effective in helping to manage reflux:

1.Eating smaller & regular meals can help as it will put less pressure on the trap door between your stomach and oesophagus and this can reduce the potential acid shooting up your food pipe! It can be therefore preferable to split your food into 4 to 5 meals or snacks a day rather than having 3 main meals.

2.Avoid eating less than 3 hours before bed can be a saviour to many as it takes approximately 3 hours for a meal to leave your stomach. In chronic heartburn, as stomach acid can make its way into the oesophagus, and that’s more likely when lying in bed shortly after a meal, when gravity is not helping to keep digestive juices in the stomach. So avoid picking a fight with gravity! In one trial the researchers found showed that patients who went to bed within 3 hours after a meal were 7 times more likely to develop heartburn than those who consumed their last meal at least 4 hours before bedtime 1 

3.Slowing down the pace of eating and chewing your food well

Chewing your food for longer will help to break it down into more digestible pieces. The saliva that coats food as you chew contains enzymes that begin the digestion process before you even swallow. For example amylase start to break down carbohydrates in the mouth. Because of this, chewing thoroughly will take some pressure from your stomach and also help you prevent gut distress.

In one study by Wildi et al. instructed 10 healthy volunteers to finish 690-calorie meals in either five or 30 minutes on alternating days. They showed that eating a standard meal in 5 minutes by healthy volunteers generated a statistically significantly greater number of reflux episodes in the first hour after eating than eating the same meal in 30 minutes, showing how important it is to slow down and chew your food! Results from another study in an adult Japanese population showed an obvious correlation between GERD symptoms and dietary habits, including the habit of quick eating and worsening reflux sytmpoms.

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1,Fujiwara Y, Machida A, Watanabe Y, Shiba M, Tominaga K, Watanabe T, Oshitani N, Higuchi K, Arakawa T. Association between dinner-to-bed time and gastro-esophageal reflux disease. Am J Gastroenterol. 2005 Dec;100(12):2633-6.

2,Wildi S.M., Tutuian R., Castell D.O.: The influence of rapid food intake on postprandial reflux: studies in healthy volunteers. Am J Gastroenterol 2004;99:1645- 1651.

3,Yamamichi N., Mochizuki S., Asada-Hirayama I., et al. Lifestyle factors affecting gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms: a cross-sectional study of healthy 19864 adults using FSSG scores. BMC Med 2012;10:45- 55.

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