Acid Reflux Relief: 9 Lasting Benefits of the Doing the DASH Diet
On special occasions, or otherwise, you would certainly love treating your taste buds to a hearty and delicious meal, wouldn’t you? After all, how can you go through life without indulging yourself once in a while, right?
But at times, a burning feeling in your chest follows your meal. Although the sensation passes away after a couple of hours, the experience is annoying. You may begin to worry that the unpleasantness might strike again during your next meal.
And this nagging thought is frustrating.
Even if you were not a foodie, you would agree that eating should be a pleasant and rewarding experience. Unfortunately, the burning sensation, called heartburn, casts a dark shadow over your favorite meals.
So, what exactly is heartburn? Let’s look into this all-too-common digestive disorder, as well as ways to relieve it for good.
Heartburn: A Bird’s Eye View
First of all, heartburn has nothing to do with your heart. Heartburn is an outcome of an abnormally functioning lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a valve mechanism located at the point where your esophagus joins your stomach.
The esophagus, a pipe like structure, connects your mouth to your stomach. When you swallow food, it travels down the esophagus, passes through the LES and enters the stomach. Normally, the LES only allows food to pass from the esophagus to the stomach and not vice versa.
But things don’t always stay normal.
A weak LES cannot prevent contents of the stomach, such as partially digested food and stomach acids, from leaking back into the esophagus. The esophagus, unlike the stomach, has no protection against stomach acids. Due to this, the acids burn your esophagus.
The burning sensation you feel, called heartburn, is actually stomach acids corroding your esophagus. If left unmanaged, heartburn escalates to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
GERD: A Case of Chronic Heartburn
Heartburn is a common disorder among adults. Estimates say that nearly 60 percent of Americans experience heartburn. Thus, if heartburn plagues you less than twice a week, there’s no reason to panic. Over the counter medicines are enough to treat weekly heartburn.
But you need to watch out if you experience heartburn more than twice a week. If the following symptoms accompany the burning sensation, which heartburn causes, then you need to see a doctor.
- Burning feeling spreads to your throat.
- You feel a sour taste in your mouth.
- Chest begins to hurt.
- It becomes difficult to swallow food.
- You cough without producing phlegm.
- The throat becomes hoarse and sore.
- Partially digested food regurgitates.
- You sense a lump in your throat.
If you display one or more of the above symptoms, along with frequent bouts of heartburn, you are most likely suffering from GERD. If not treated promptly and appropriately, GERD further escalates to more severe complications.
GERD Unchecked: A Recipe for Disaster
The simple truth is that unless the discomfort is too severe to ignore, going to the doctor may not be a priority for you. However, the trip is worth taking. Leaving GERD untreated for long periods of time creates the following health hazards:
- Esophageal Stricture: This is when acid exposure damages the cells in your lower esophagus and causes scar tissue formation. The scar tissue narrows the food pipe and makes it difficult for you to swallow food.
- Esophageal Ulcers: This happens when the acids in your stomach severely wear away issues in the esophagus and cause open sores, called ulcers, to form. These sores bleed, hurt and make swallowing problematic for you.
- Barrett’s Esophagus: in Barrett’s Esophagus, the tissues lining your lower esophagus mutate. The mutation produces precancerous cells; therefore, your risk of developing esophageal cancer increases.
By now, you must have realized that managing heartburn at the earliest is a priority. Would you like to learn a proven and universal method to treat heartburn and acid reflux?
If you are like most people, your answer will be a resounding, “Yes.”
Weight Loss: A Reliable Way to Combat Acid Reflux
Yes, there are over the counter medicines and prescription strength drugs, which doctors use to treat chronic heartburn and acid reflux. That said, most doctors recommend making lifestyle changes before resorting to medicines. Losing extra weight is the number one item on the list of lifestyle changes you need to make to find significant relief from heartburn.
Excess fat in the abdominal region exerts pressure on the stomach continuously. This constant stress weakens the LES, leading to frequent heartburn.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that relatively small increases in weight raises the severity of acid reflux and its related complications. The good news is that even a small reduction in weight provides you with significant relief from heartburn symptoms.
But losing weight is easier said than done. That’s why you need to learn about the wonderful weight loss benefits of the DASH diet.
The DASH Diet: Your Best Friend in Your Weight Loss Journey
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is a balanced and flexible eating plan developed to reduce blood pressure. The eating plan involves the following dietary changes:
- Eating foods low in saturated fat, cholesterol and total fat
- Consuming fruits and vegetables
- Drinking fat-free or low-fat milk
- Including whole grains, fish, beans, nuts, seeds and poultry in your diet
- Avoiding added sugar and sugary beverages
- Reducing intake of alcohol
U.S. News & World Report ranked the DASH diet number one in the annual diet rankings published in January 2016. Amazingly, the DASH diet has been on the top spot for six consecutive years.
In addition to being judged the best diet overall, the DASH diet also won the top spot in the category of Best Diets for Healthy Eating. Considering the accolades the DASH diet has won over the years, it is clear that this diet regimen can help you achieve your weight loss goals.
The 9 Benefits of the DASH Diet
Here are 9 convincing arguments made in favor of the DASH diet:
1. Promotes Healthy Weight Loss
Anyone who is trying to lose weight wants to lose it as quickly as possible. This desire for immediate results is quite understandable. However, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has found evidence that those who lose weight steadily and gradually, at the rate of one to two pounds per week, are more successful at preventing the weight from coming back.
The National Institutes of Health tailored the DASH diet in such a way that you consistently lose weight in small increments. As a result, you experience healthy weight loss, and avoid problems, such as losing water weight and muscle mass.
2. Easy to Sustain
Many diet plans require you to alter your dietary habits significantly. For a while, your willpower enables you to stick to these changes. Eventually your willpower dissipates, and permanently switching to a healthy eating regimen becomes extremely difficult.
This is where the DASH diet has an edge over other common diets. In the DASH diet, you can incorporate the changes step-by-step. Thus, you don’t have to simultaneously deal with multiple changes to your eating habits.
After you successfully internalize one habit, such as eating a serving of fruit before dinner, you can adopt another habit. In this manner, you can methodically include more and more ways of eating soundly over a period of time.
Once you build four or five positive eating habits, the effect begins to snowball, and before you realize, eating healthy foods becomes easier than eating unhealthy food.
3. Suitable for Vegetarians and Non-Vegetarians
Some popular diets favor non-vegetarians. For instance, someone living in a vegetarian household would find it difficult to follow diets that recommend meat as the primary source of protein.
Fortunately, the DASH diet’s design caters to the dietary habits of a wide range of people. In fact, the DASH diet is favorable for non-vegetarians. On the contrary, the DASH diet recommends that people include at least two purely vegetarian meals per week.
The broad distribution of foods included in the DASH diet plan offers eaters of every kind plenty of ways to eat healthful foods.
4. Readily Available Foods
All the foods on the DASH diet menu are available in most grocery stores and supermarkets. Plus, there are many brands offering food products suitable for the DASH diet.
For example, DASH diet encourages you to eat nuts and seeds. One popular choice among DASH dieters is almonds. Amazon lists more than 50 brands of almonds. Therefore, you can choose a brand based on cost, flavor and quantity.
Another advantage is that commonly available foods sell fast. You can be sure that the products on the shelf are fresh. Nevertheless, check the packing for the expiry date.
Lastly, there are many easy to cook and tasty recipes available for common foods that constitute the DASH diet. Hence, you will not fall short of interesting dishes to try, ensuring that your dinner table always stays interesting and fun.
5. Excludes Reflux Triggers
In order to avoid heartburn, it helps to be aware of the types of foods that trigger it. The following is a list of things that are associated with heartburn:
- Alcoholic beverages, such as wine and beer.
- Spices, such as black pepper.
- Members of the allium family, such as onions and garlic.
- Products that consist a lot of chocolate.
- Citrus fruits and their juices.
- Caffeinated drinks including coffee, tea and soda.
- Drinks and desserts with heavy peppermint flavor.
- Acidic vegetables, such as tomatoes.
It is not necessary that each item on the list is a heartburn trigger for you. You must also understand that there are items, which are not on the list, that trigger heartburn for you, as well. That’s why it is important that you create a personalized list of heartburn triggers.
Since most of these common triggers are not a part of the DASH diet, it is clear that following the DASH diet automatically decreases your exposure to heartburn triggers.
6. Rich in Low Energy Dense Foods
Energy density of a food product is a measure of how many calories you derive from eating a unit of that product. If you eat 100 grams of chocolate cake, you will receive seven times more energy than from eating 100 grams of apples. This is because the energy density of chocolate cake is seven times that of apple.
The problem with high energy density food is that you need to eat large quantities to feel full. Unfortunately, high quantity means high-calorie. Therefore, such foods are not appropriate for a weight loss plan.
Fruits and vegetables, which are a big part of the DASH diet, are low energy density foods. Due to this, you can eat large quantities of such foods without consuming too many calories. Hence, you can eat your fill while on your weight loss journey.
7. Reduces the Load on Your Stomach
People who follow the DASH diet eat five to seven small meals instead of eating three large meals. Thus, DASH dieters never overloads your stomach. As a result, the LES remains stress-free and performs its duties as a gatekeeper efficiently.
Eating many small meals also allows you to include all components of the DASH diet in your food plan. If you are restricted to just three meals a day, you may forcibly have to combine foods that don’t go well together.
A word of caution, while eating many small meals and sure that the meals indeed small. Otherwise, you will end up overeating and gain weight. Learn to portion out your food appropriately. Also, understand the type of food that you’re eating. For instance, seeds and nuts must be eaten only in handful amounts because they are energy dense.
In case you’re wondering why energy dense food items, such as seeds and nuts are in the DASH diet, it is because seeds and nuts is rich in minerals and unsaturated fats. Furthermore, these foods are low in sodium and cholesterol. The health benefits of eating seeds and nuts are too hard to ignore. That’s the reason why they are a part of the DASH diet.
8. Moderately Restrictive, But Flexible
In order to lead a healthy lifestyle, it’s important for your body to get all the nutrients it requires each day. What’s equally important is that the nutrients must come from healthy resources.
Consider a slice of bread and an avocado. Only five percent of the carbohydrates in bread come from fiber. Astonishingly, 76 percent of the carbohydrates in an avocado come from fiber. Thus, for the same quantity of carbohydrates, avocados are a much healthier source than bread because of high quantities of fiber.
The DASH diet encourages you to get your nutrients from health resources. That’s why it restricts you from consuming unhealthy fats, carbohydrates and proteins. However, the diet is flexible enough to provide many healthy alternates for you to try.
The diet also doesn’t forbid you from eating any kind of foods. Even though alcohol is detrimental to your weight loss process, the DASH diet doesn’t insist that you quit drinking. The diet only requires you to limit your consumption.
9. It is Self-Paced
Since the DASH diet is not a crash diet, there is no need to do anything in a hurry. You can systematically work towards imbibing various elements of healthy eating at your own pace.
The DASH diet isn’t just about losing weight. It is about bringing your body back to a balanced state. This balancing act requires time and attention. Any attempt at forcing this balance rapidly soon falls apart. Therefore, the DASH diet is not a weekly, monthly or yearly diet plan. It is a way for you to eat healthy for the rest of your life.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see immediate results. This diet functions in such a way that the weight you lose is lost for good. That’s why measure your weight only twice in a month. Also, have other indicators to judge your weight loss progress.
Concentrate on how you feel as you include positive eating habits in your life. Watch out for things that are not working. Take action and listen to your body again. Continuously pay attention to this feedback loop. Work on adding new habits only when current habits fully integrated into your life.
If you want to get rid of your excess pounds forever, developing healthy eating habits is crucial. It is a skill worth mastering, so begin today. Abdominal fat puts pressure on your LES, causing stomach acids to leak into your esophagus. This causes heartburn and if left untreated, frequent heartburn leads to GERD.
Weight loss is the surest and healthiest way to remedy acid reflux, and the DASH diet is a brilliant template on which you can build a healthful eating habit. If you can exercise three to four days a week, your weight loss process will become super-efficient.
If you had more than two cases of heartburn in this week or the week before it, see your physician immediately. Also, take his counsel on any specific needs that you might need to address regarding the DASH diet.
You have the information, now it’s time for you to act on it. Start with small dietary steps to make your heartburn a thing of the past.