Ashley Koff, R.D., founder of The Better Nutrition Program, offers insight into digestive health as well as causes and treatments for GERD.
Ashley Koff, R.D.
Founder, The Better Nutrition Program
What is GERD and why do people experience it?
Gastro-esophageal reflux disease occurs when the contents of the stomach (including the acid) come back up into the esophagus. This typically occurs because the lower esophageal sphincter — which is supposed to close and not allow anything back up — doesn’t close all the way or remains fully open.
There are many different reasons GERD occurs, but they fall into two categories: pressure and substances. If someone has a hiatal hernia, is carrying excess weight, is pregnant, or is bloated, then the pressure may be the cause; medications, certain herbs, and some common irritants may also contribute to GERD.
Depending on the cause(s) of your GERD, recommendations may include adjusting the timing and amount of food consumed, addressing underlying digestive issues, changing medications, and even surgical repairs. In other cases, like pregnancy, you may get guidance on how to reduce the intensity or frequency noting it should resolve itself post-delivery.
How do spicy foods affect your digestive system?
“Spicy food” is a very misleading term, because some of the best things for our digestion are nature’s herbs and spices — the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric and ginger, the anti-microbial power of oregano, the gas expelling support from fennel seeds, etc. However, many foods that are prepared spicy often don’t use these herbs and spices, but they instead use processed ingredients that may be irritating your system, or an excess of sugar, fats, and sodium which likewise can be irritating themselves — especially in higher quantities.
Does the way you digest food change from your teenage to adult years?
Yes, we do see a decrease in digestive enzymes and stomach acid as we age. There are also the years of food and beverage choices, medications, surgeries, and behaviors that impact the lining of our digestive tract and the microbial balance.
How can we help our children’s gut health at a young age?
It starts with maternal and paternal health. Then, the digestive system needs to be nurtured with foods that feed a healthy microbiome and support gut lining integrity. Limit overwhelming or irritating the digestive tract and its beneficial inhabitants.
What are the main digestive issues you see in 2022 and expect in 2023?
We will continue to see the impact of stress and anxiety on the digestive systems of adults and children. We’ll see insufficient fiber especially as we continue to see “low carb” and ”no carb” diets. We will also see big wins in learning more about nutrient support for digestion and tying together how things like blood sugar levels are impacted by digestive health.