Your digestive tract begins in your mouth and runs all the way through your body as one continuous system. Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, causes problems at the upper end, from the mouth and lungs down to the stomach, whereas irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is characterized by abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation. In both health conditions, symptoms may be triggered and relieved by eliminating certain foods from your diet.
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Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
GERD occurs when the muscle that holds food and liquid in your stomach weakens, allowing digestive acid from the stomach to wash up into your esophagus. When this reflux happens, the acid causes burning, chest discomfort and pain that worsens when you bend over or lie down. The bitter fluid may flow up toward your throat or reach your mouth, causing hoarseness, coughing and possibly shortness of breath. A GERD diet lowers the chance of having reflux by eliminating foods known to trigger the problem.
GERD Diet Guidelines
You can continue to eat your favorite fruits, vegetables, grains and fish with few exceptions. You can also enjoy dairy, meat and poultry, but stick with low-fat or skim dairy products and lean meat, which have 10 grams of fat or less per serving. A GERD diet is mostly about avoiding the foods that trigger reflux for you. High-fat and fried foods are known to cause GERD. You may also need to limit or avoid spicy foods, onions, chocolate, peppermint, citrus fruit, tomatoes and tomato products. Reflux-causing beverages include alcohol, coffee, carbonated drinks and citrus juices.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
IBS has many causes, but regardless of its origin, the symptoms are the same: abdominal pain and a change in stool frequency, which may be diarrhea, constipation or both. Some of the same foods that trigger GERD may also cause IBS symptoms. General guidelines from the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse recommend avoiding or limiting high-fat foods, milk products, alcohol and caffeine.
Foods You Can Eat With IBS
If you have IBS, you can eat all types of fish and lean protein but only certain fruits and vegetables. Lean cuts of beef include sirloin, loin and round, as well as 90 percent lean ground beef. Pork loin and tenderloin cuts are also lean. For poultry, choose breast meat and be sure to remove the skin. The Stanford Hospital recommends wheat-free or gluten-free grains, such as rice, quinoa, corn and sorghum. Replace cow's milk with soy, rice or almond milk or with lactose-free cow's milk. Some of the fruits you can eat include bananas, berries, grapes, cantaloupe and oranges. For vegetables, go with bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, squash, tomatoes, yams and leafy greens.