August 25, 2012

Secret Weapon: Ice Cubes (or, How to Drink Water When You Have GERD)

The blue-woman glass is the GERD-friendly glass.

Over the past several weeks, I decided to listen to my body and avoid guzzling water with my meals -- something I usually do when given a tall glass.  Especially with the hot weather, I found myself drinking 1-2 glasses of water very fast and then suffering that "food in throat" feeling and uncomfortable fullness.

Tired of this self-inflicted situation, I decided to drink nothing with my meals -- but that was also uncomfortable.  Half-way through my meals, I'd get thirsty for just a sip.  I'm training myself to drinking nothing during meals but I found another solution: rationing my water with meals by serving myself a glass full of ice cubes and just a few inches of water in the glass.   (See photo of glasses above; the middle glass is a typical amount.)  This trick allows me to enjoy a few sips of liquid but limits how much I can consume at the table.   Brilliant!


The water-heartburn/GERD connection is documented around the web.   (Another case of "it's not just me!")   In everything from quasi-medical sites to bulletin boards with threads like, "Why Does Water Make Me Sick?"   Nutritionist Joy Bauer explains how drinking during meals can be a problem for GERD-prone guts in her 10 Tips to Alleviate Acid Reflux:
If you suffer from GERD, limit your fluid intake with meals. Liquids add to the volume of food in your stomach and increases stomach distension. A full belly puts more pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscle that normally prevents food from moving back up into your esophagus, and thus adds to your risk of reflux. To minimize stomach volume, take small sips of water while you eat, and try to drink mostly between rather than during meals.
But Dr. Picco, a gastroenterologist from the Mayo Clinic, disputes this:
There's no concern that water will dilute the digestive juices or interfere with digestion. In fact, drinking water during or after a meal actually aids digestion. Water and other liquids help break down food so that your body can absorb the nutrients. Water also softens stools, which helps prevent constipation.
That's a great example of "medical advice" versus the lived experience of those with GERD who do feel water intake is an issue.  Perhaps, then, it's not the water itself but quantity/speed at which it is consumed.  (Which is why my ice cube method allows me to take in some water during meals with no concerns.)

A related tactic I've been using to take in liquid but not "guzzle" it down -- eat juicy foods when I'm thirsty, especially around meals.  Watermelon, cantaloup, applesauce -- all are great solutions for me.


An Ayurvedic perspective on the issue

The Reluctant Eater: Don't Drink Water (Or Anything Else) During Meals

Does Drinking Water Increase the Symptoms of Acid Reflux?  Another quick review by the Livestrong team.

Primal trainer Mark Sisson's blog entry on health and water consumption.

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