Long Term Implications of Uncontrolled Reflux

Long Term Implications of Uncontrolled Reflux

Published on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 by Emily Hamm

Reflux is something that can be easily managed with diet and lifestyle modifications alongside medication management. 

However, some people really struggle with making changes necessary to control reflux. The purpose of this article is to briefly go over the long term implications of uncontrolled reflux and encourage you to make some simple changes to have a better quality of life

Reflux is the result of a weakened lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES sits at the top of your stomach and acts as a gateway between your throat and stomach, protecting your esophagus from stomach acid and digested food splashing back up. 

Reflux may feel like a burning sensation near your heart (“heartburn”) or it might be more of a nauseated feeling (like you need to vomit). You may also experience asthma-like symptoms, dry cough, difficulty swallowing, sore throat and bad breath. 

Untreated reflux can ultimately lead to several problems that can be severe in nature requiring additional medical attention (possibly surgery) and stricter diet recommendations

  • Esophagitis- this is inflammation of the esophagus. It will hurt to swallow.
  • Ulcers - one of the most common problems associated with reflux- these can lead to tears in the esophagus.
  • Strictures - this is also known as narrowing of the esophagus over time which can lead to inability to swallow foods. You might feel as if you’re choking. 
  • Barrett’s esophagus - this is when the cell lining of the esophagus has changed and pre-cancerous lesions appear. 

Here is a list of some steps to take to better manage your reflux to help avoid the above serious complications:

  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages
  • Limit or avoid the following foods as they may trigger reflux:
    • Spicy foods (black pepper, cayenne pepper, peppers)
    • Acidic foods (citrus fruits, tomatoes and tomato products)
    • High fat foods (fried foods, full-fat dairy)
    • Peppermint
    • Caffeinated beverages like tea and coffee 
  • Light exercise after eating promotes good digestion and if necessary, try losing weight via diet and exercise 
  • Eat smaller portions at meals - Portion Plate
  • Avoid late night meals (ideally do not eat at least 2 hours before bedtime and avoid lying down for 2-3 hours after eating)
  • Avoid straws when drinking beverages and chewing gum (this traps air in the GI tract)
  • Wear loose fitting clothes

If you have further questions or difficulty with managing your reflux, please reach out to a registered dietitian/nutritionist (RD/RDN) and/or your provider for additional tips and recommendations. Also be sure to check out the following articles on recipes for reflux and tips for dining out with reflux.

It’s not too late to stop reflux - YOU CAN DO IT! 

Reflux-Friendly Veggies to Add to Your Recipes:

Organic Baby Bok Choy (5 oz)

Frozen Cut Okra (12 oz)


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