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Top Triggers to Avoid If You Have GERD

Do you “feel the burn” in your throat or even down to your stomach after eating? You may have gastroesophageal reflux disease

Have you begun to approach eating and drinking with caution? You’re getting heartburn much too frequently, but you’re not sure what’s causing it. If this sounds familiar, then you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a condition in which the stomach contents regularly move back up the food pipe. If you have heartburn more than two times a week, then you, along with about 20% of adults in the United States, have GERD. 

Here at Monrovia Internal Medicine & Primary Care in Duarte, California, we have the tools and the knowledge to help treat your GERD symptoms, along with any of your other internal medicine needs. Dr. Ulin Sargeant is here to help you find the best lifestyle changes and personalized treatment options to get long-term relief.

Why does GERD happen?

Your esophagus is essentially a long tube. There’s a group of muscles, called the lower esophageal sphincter, at the lower end that connects to your stomach. 

When the sphincter is completely closed, nothing can move back up toward your throat. If it doesn’t close completely, then partially digested food in your stomach can go back up to your throat. 

Heartburn occurs when food that’s reached your stomach moves back up your esophagus. You may feel partially digested food and/or a very bad-tasting and acidic liquid come back up in your throat (a process called reflux). This is usually accompanied by a sharp, burning pain in your esophagus. The pain results from acid from your stomach hitting the esophageal lining. 

Common GERD triggers

The following are some of the most common GERD triggers. Many triggers vary from person to person. It can be helpful to try an elimination diet to see which triggers make your GERD worse, so you know to avoid them. 


Nicotine causes smooth muscle tissue inside your body to relax. There’s a very strong relationship between GERD and smoking. Smokers are more likely to develop the more dangerous GERD symptoms such as Barrett’s esophagus (cells in the esophagus that turn cancerous) and other forms of cancer. 


Although scientific proof isn’t in yet, researchers think drinking alcohol may damage the esophageal mucosa, which is the inner lining of the esophagus. Anecdotal data indicate that GERD symptoms decrease when the person either stops drinking or greatly reduces their alcohol intake.


Caffeine can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, so drinking coffee and tea is not a good idea if you have GERD. Are you drinking three cups of coffee or tea a day? Try cutting down on the caffeine and see what happens. 

High fat and fried foods

Fatty and greasy foods can also relax the sphincter, so try avoiding foods high in fat like whole milk, butter, cheese, and other whole fat dairy products. Try the low-fat versions instead and see if they make a difference. Also, avoid foods high in saturated fats: think red meat and fried food, like French fries.  

Mint/spicy foods/garlic/onion

Many people suffering from GERD feel better when they avoid spicy foods, as well as garlic and onions. Peppermint and spearmint are also common triggers. 

Don’t eat right before bed 

If you eat and then lie down soon afterward, it’s easy for the food to move back up through the esophagus. Digestion takes between four and five hours, so eat at least three hours before bed. Use a wedge under your bed or pillow to keep your head above your stomach at night. 

Avoid overconsumption at meals  

Eating a large, heavy meal may trigger your symptoms. It may put excessive pressure on your stomach, which will open up the sphincter muscle. Experts advise eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. 

If you think you’re experiencing the symptoms of GERD, don’t wait to get relief. Call us today or use our easy online booking tool to schedule an appointment. Our team here in Duarte, California is ready to help you get on track to living a heartburn-free life.

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