Finding effective relief can be a real challenge for gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD/GERD). But what if the solution lay in something as simple as the food we eat?
A recent study published in Nutrients journal, has taken a close look at the potential of ‘functional foods’ to tackle GERD symptoms head-on.
What are functional foods?
Functional foods are known by various terms globally. They are often referred to as nutraceuticals, health foods, bioactive foods, dietary supplements, superfoods, medical foods, and more. These terms highlight their ability to provide added health benefits beyond basic nutrition.
Whether described as designer foods, balanced foods, or foods with health claims, the common thread is their potential to enhance well-being through targeted nutrients or bioactive compounds.
Functional foods are nutrient-rich products that offer a concentrated dose of essential nutrients per serving. Loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre and other bioactive compounds, these foods are said to extend beyond basic nutrition.
They come in various forms, ranging from fortified and enriched options to naturally occurring selections like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
A holistic perspective
The review – by Yedi Herdiana at Padjadjaran University in Indonesia – highlights the multifaceted role of functional foods may have in mitigating GERD symptoms. One notable avenue is their potential to reduce acid production. Fibre-rich foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes promote healthy digestion, addressing constipation – a known trigger for GERD.
Functional foods such as aloe vera, yoghurt, and lean proteins could contribute to alleviating stomach discomfort and countering acid reflux episodes.
Guardians of the oesophagus
Functional foods go beyond nutrient provision; they could also act as protectors of the delicate oesophageal lining. Ingredients like marshmallow root and slippery elm create a protective layer against stomach acid, potentially offering relief from inflammation.
A diet rich in fibre has also been linked to improved lower oesophageal sphincter pressure, leading to fewer reflux incidents and decreased heartburn occurrences.
Fostering digestive harmony
Maintaining a balanced gut plays a pivotal role in overall wellbeing. Probiotics found in yoghurt and fermented foods support a diverse gut microbiome, ultimately enhancing digestion. Foods abundant in dietary fibre ensure regular bowel movements, reducing the likelihood of constipation – a notable contributor to GERD.
The review also highlights the digestion-friendly enzymes in papaya and the benefits of functional foods like kefir and sauerkraut, all contributing to improved digestive function and a potential reduction in acid reflux incidents.
Addressing inflammation naturally
Chronic inflammation can exacerbate GERD symptoms. Here, researchers say functional foods offer potential allies in the fight against inflammation. Curcumin, an active compound in turmeric, and omega-3 fatty acids found in sources like fatty fish or flaxseeds possess anti-inflammatory properties.
By incorporating these elements, individuals may help alleviate inflammation within the oesophagus and stomach lining. Functional foods like chamomile tea and ginger also play a role in soothing and potentially reducing GERD symptoms.
A personalised approach
The review underscores the importance of personalised approaches when managing GERD through functional foods. Recognising the unique responses of each individual’s body, the focus shifts towards understanding symptoms, meal sizes, timing, and macronutrient composition. Instead of rigid elimination diets, embracing non-pharmacological solutions such as functional foods provides a tailored approach to managing GERD effectively.
As technological advancements continue, so do functional foods. The review emphasises the necessity for research, interdisciplinary collaboration, and public health education to fully harness the potential of these nutritional powerhouses. While functional foods should complement conventional medical approaches, they offer a natural pathway towards relief from GERD symptoms.
In a world where health challenges abound, the research suggests that functional foods could be considered as a potential option. Based on their nutrient-rich profiles and the specific benefits they may offer; these foods could present a pathway for managing GERD symptoms and promoting digestive wellbeing.
By thoughtfully incorporating functional foods into one’s daily routine, individuals might embark on a journey towards enhanced wellbeing, where the discomfort of reflux symptoms could potentially find some relief.