Sonya Angelone, M.S., RDN, CLT
National Spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Many people experience indigestion occasionally — maybe after a spicy meal or a rushed lunch. Frequent indigestion could be your gut telling you to visit your physician to diagnose the culprit.
Regular indigestion could be a sign for a serious condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD, but some people might experience bad breath, stomach pain, coughing, nausea, or vomiting.
GERD causes stomach acids, fluids, and foods to flow back into your esophagus and cause discomfort. It could be a temporary or long-term issue, but if left untreated, GERD can cause serious health problems, such as inflammation of the esophagus, which is a risk factor for esophageal cancer. GERD may also lead to serious respiratory issues, such as asthma, fluid in the lungs, chest congestion, wheezing, and pneumonia.
Making a plan
If your physician diagnoses you with GERD, they can refer you to a registered dietitian nutritionist, a food and nutrition expert who can help you fine-tune your meals and food choices to minimize stomach upset.
Everyone is different, so your treatment plan should be as unique as you are. An RDN will help you create an individualized meal plan that limits fatty foods and other foods that have been identified to trigger GERD symptoms. An RDN can also help you pinpoint these foods and find replacements to avoid missing out on important nutrients.
Keep track of what you eat and drink throughout the day, and note when you have symptoms so you can pinpoint any possible dietary connections. The timing and amount of food you eat can make a difference in how you feel, so try to eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. Eat in a calm environment, and two to three hours before lying down.
Continue working with your physician and your RDN to create prevention and treatment strategies that fit your lifestyle and health needs. Visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ online Find an Expert service to find a registered dietitian nutritionist near you.