Erosive esophagitis results from reflux of stomach acid up into the esophagus. The lining of the esophagus becomes inflamed and irritated. You may feel abdominal pain and burning that extends up into the mid-chest area. Following a bland diet can help minimize symptoms. During acute episodes you may need medication along with diet and lifestyle modifications. Erosive esophagitis is often painful and leads to complications such as Barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous condition.
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What to Drink
Caffeine decreases the pressure around the lower esophageal sphincter, which allows food and acid to backflow from the stomach to the esophagus. The result is inflamed tissue. Avoid all caffeinated drinks. Drink herbal teas, decaffeinated coffee or tea and water. Fruit juice and vegetable broth make good alternative beverages as long as they do not contain acidic fruit or vegetables, like orange or tomato. The authors of “Medical-Surgical Nursing” advise against drinking carbonated beverages as these also reduce LES pressure.
The BRAT Diet
MedlinePlus recommends following a bland diet during acute episodes of esophagitis. Although the American Gastroenterological Association reported in an October 2008 article published in the “Journal of Gastroenterology” that no specific diet works for every person suffering from erosive esophagitis, you can implement a bland diet permanently if it relieves your symptoms. A strict bland diet is the BRAT diet. Consisting of bananas, rice, applesauce and toast, the diet encourages easily digested foods. Breads should be made from refined flour to ease digestion. In addition to white rice, you can eat processed oats and cream of wheat cereals.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruit and vegetables are important for providing vitamins, minerals and fiber in your diet. However, with erosive esophagitis, you need to avoid fruits and vegetables that are hard to digest and cause gas. Carrots, peas, potatoes, summer squash and many types of squash are usually well tolerated as long as you cook them. You can also include canned, frozen, or cooked fruit like applesauce, canned peaches and pears and frozen blueberries. Bananas, peeled apples and pears make good fresh fruit choices.
Lean Meat and Dairy
Fat is another culprit that decreases LES pressure. You can eat lean poultry, fish and pork. Buffalo is a leaner choice for red meat than beef. Bake, broil or boil meat. When you cook meats, season with spices that do not irritate the stomach or esophagus. Small amounts of salt and pepper, rosemary, thyme and basil are unlikely to cause pain. For dairy products, select skim milk, low-fat yogurt and cheese.
In addition to modifying your diet, you may need to make some lifestyle changes. If you have erosive esophagitis, you should not drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. Eat small meals frequently throughout the day to aid in digestion. Do not drink while you are eating; instead, drink between meals. Keep a food diary to see which foods and drinks aggravate your symptoms so you can eliminate them from your diet.