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Managing Reflux During Cancer Treatment: Dietary Tips and Lifestyle Changes

Paper image of stomach with heartburn, indigestion, acid reflux

Occasional indigestion or heartburn is something many of us have experienced, and it can be really uncomfortable! For many people undergoing cancer treatment, this discomfort evolves into more persistent symptoms, leading to the challenge of acid reflux.


Several factors contribute to this, including cancer treatments, medications, dietary changes, stress, and the adjustments our bodies undergo during this time. But remember, you're not alone in facing this; experiencing reflux is a very common symptom.


First and foremost, it is important to speak with your treatment team about these symptoms to receive personalised guidance and support.


In this article, I'll be discussing numerous dietary adjustments and lifestyle changes that can help to improve reflux. Whether you are navigating the complexities of cancer treatment or not, my hope is that some of these strategies resonate with you and bring some relief, helping you towards feeling better soon.


Tip 1: Avoid Dietary Triggers


Reflux is a highly individual symptom, and what triggers it can vary from person to person. Here are some common dietary triggers:


• Spicy or fatty foods

• Tomatoes

• Caffeine

• Fizzy drinks

• Chocolate

• Onions and garlic

• Mint and peppermint – though often used to ease digestion, these can relax the lower oesophageal sphincter, allowing stomach acid to flow back up in some people. See how they affect you.

• Alcohol


Understanding your unique triggers is key. Keeping a food diary where you note what you eat, and any resulting symptoms can be helpful in identifying personal triggers.


Tip 2: Tailoring Meal Habits for Comfort


Opting for smaller, more frequent meals can be beneficial as they reduce the volume of food in your stomach, easing the pressure that can contribute to reflux. Avoiding late-night eating gives your body more time to digest before lying down, potentially preventing stomach acid from flowing back up into your food pipe.


Discovering what suits your body best is key in adapting your meal habits to help reduce reflux symptoms.


Tip 3: Support Digestion with Mindful Eating


Before your meal, take a moment to picture what you're about to eat. Embrace the pause, allowing your body to prepare for digestion. Allocate uninterrupted time to sit and engage fully in mindful eating, free from competing demands. Begin by chewing your food thoroughly; this initiates the digestion process. After eating, avoid rushing off immediately, allowing your body the essential time to rest and effectively digest.


Tip 4: Fluid Timing for Optimal Digestion


Consider refraining from consuming drinks approximately 30 minutes before and after meals. Instead, take small sips of fluids while eating. This practice can aid in optimising digestion, allowing your body to focus on breaking down food without diluting digestive processes. Remember to maintain adequate hydration by drinking fluids between meals to meet your body's hydration needs.


Tip 5: Cultivating Calm for Gut Health


Our gut, often termed the 'second brain,' reacts to our emotional state. Managing stress is vital as it directly impacts digestive processes and can drive reflux symptoms. Find what works best for you to alleviate stress; whether it's practicing breathing exercises like alternate nostril breathing, engaging in mindfulness, meditation, or any other relaxation techniques. These methods help shift the body from the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for the stress response) to the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting digestive comfort. Making stress relief a focus supports a healthier gut environment, reducing the likelihood of reflux.


As we conclude this discussion, it's important to remember that managing reflux is a unique experience for each person. These tips serve a starting point, but there are countless more strategies to explore. Always remember to communicate with your healthcare team, keeping them informed about your experiences and seeking personalised advice.


I hope you have found these basic tips helpful in tackling the challenges of reflux. If you or a loved one could benefit from tailored nutritional support and advice, please don't hesitate to get in touch.


Telephone: 020 8064 2865

Appointments: book here


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