GERD and Weight Gain

Digestive Health, Featured Article, News and Advice, Weight Loss
on October 31, 2012
Diet advice for a teenager who has GERD.

Spry editor Lisa Delaney is one of the rare souls who know what it’s like to be an “after.” This journalist and author of Secrets of a Former Fat Girl shed 70 pounds—and six dress sizes–and has kept it off for 20 years. She answers your questions here each week.

DEAR FFG: Help! My 16-year-old daughter has gained at least 20 pounds in two months and is feeling miserable! It all started when we discovered she had GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). The doctor put her on meds that really messed with her system. She isn’t on any medication now, and we desperately need a natural, hopefully vegan diet that will help her lose weight. Any suggestions are so appreciated!–Connie

DEAR CONNIE: Wow—she’s young to have GERD (but you already know that, right?). GERD happens when the ring of muscle in your esophagus doesn’t close as it should, and allows stomach acid to leak back into the esophagus. That adds up to heartburn and sometimes nausea. Often, people with GERD experience weight loss due to loss of appetite, but it sounds like your daughter’s meds fixed that—and then some.

The trick with GERD is to steer clear of foods and habits that aggravate it, and to manage it with antacids when you need them. Any diet your daughter adopts should limit high-acid foods like tomatoes and tomato products; citrus fruits and juices; chocolate (sorry!); coffee, tea and carbonated drinks; spicy foods; fried and fatty foods; and dairy. Frankly, if your daughter limits these foods and engages in regular exercise, she should be able to lose weight, as many items on this list are high-calorie offenders.

RELATED: The GERD-Cancer Connection

There’s no particular reason from the standpoint of treating GERD to adopt a vegan diet, but if that’s your preference, it can certainly be a healthful way to lose weight. Just make sure you focus on high-fiber whole grains (rather than refined grains), good non-animal protein sources like tofu and legumes and a variety of fruits and vegetables.

There are a variety of vegan plans out there; popular right now is The Kind Diet, created by actress and vegan activist Alicia Silverstone. Just be wary of any diet that promises more than a 1 to 2-pound weight loss per week; that’s a red flag that the diet is too extreme to be effective in the long run.

RELATED: 7 Reasons to Go Vegan

Lisa Delaney is editor of Spry magazine and Ask her your question here.