Dear Dietitian – I have acid reflux and gastroparesis – what can I drink?

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Published Thursday, August 29, 2019
PICT Leanne McCrate Dear Dietitian
by Leanne McCrate, RD, LD, CNSC

Dear Dietitian,

I have acid reflux and gastroparesis, both are under good control with medication. I drink water and sugar-free sports drinks, and I'm getting tired of them. Are there other drinks you would recommend? I do not have diabetes.

Sharon

Dear Sharon,

It is not uncommon for those who have gastroparesis to also have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). For those who are not familiar with gastroparesis, it is a condition where the actions of the stomach are slowed down, causing delayed emptying of stomach contents into the small intestine. The cause of this condition is often unknown, but may be from uncontrolled diabetes, abdominal surgery that damages the vagus nerve, or disorders that affect the nervous system, such as Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis. 

GERD, or "heartburn," is a more common condition that affects about twenty percent of Americans. In this condition, the valve between the esophagus (tube that connects the mouth and stomach) and stomach relaxes and allows stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus. Since this acid has a pH of around 2.5 (very acidic), it causes a burning feeling, often in the chest area, giving it the nickname "heartburn." Of course, this process has no effect on the heart. 

Fortunately, there are many beverages on the market today that will "wet your whistle" and keep you refreshed. The following lists should help you with GERD.

Choose freely from these:

  • Milk, plant-based or cow's milk
  • Less acidic fruit juices, like pear or apple
  • Sports drinks, regular or diet. 
  • Water enhancers. These are fruity flavors you can add to jazz up your water. They are sold in the same aisle as sports drinks.
  • Herbal tea- licorice, chamomile, slippery elm, or marshmallow
  • Decaffeinated iced tea or coffee

Limit these:

  • Carbonated beverages
  • Caffeinated beverages
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Chocolate drinks. These beverages contain caffeine and methylxanthine, substance that relaxes the esophageal valve
  • Spearmint or peppermint

As for gastroparesis, liquids move out of the stomach faster than solids, so you only need to watch out for ice cream drinks or beverages that are high in fat since fat slows stomach emptying.

Finally, it is best to try an "as tolerated" approach. Keep a log of drinks that cause problems with your conditions so that you know what to avoid in the future. And as always, be healthy!

Dear Dietitian

Leanne McCrate, RD, LD, CNSC, is an award-winning dietitian based in Missouri. Her mission is to educate consumers on sound, scientifically-based nutrition. Do you have a nutrition question? Email her today at deardietitian411@gmail.com.

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