When I say that I gave up chocolate for 4 months it sounds just as crazy to me as it does to you. I love chocolate... maybe even more than the next person. But, because of a condition called GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease), I have a chocolate sensitivity that causes acid reflux. I hoped that giving it up would make me feel better in the long run, so I gave it a try. Even though it was hard to watch my friends eat hot fudge sundaes and drink hot chocolate, I was able to find alternatives to the sweet snack to help get me by. Now that I'm back on chocolate, I've realized that there's no need to completely cut chocolate out when there are such easy ways to make GERD easier to control - here are some of the substitutes that have helped me.
Fruit is a tasty and healthy alternative to chocolate. While strawberries, grapes, and bananas can never quite replace a rich chocolate bar, they can still satisfy your sweet tooth. Plus, you can easily switch your favorite chocolate treats out for fruit. Try adding some sliced strawberries to a bowl of cereal instead of going for the chocolate chip granola. Or keep a small container of blueberries in your refrigerator to nibble on instead of munching on those mini Oreos.
Vanilla desserts are perfect for those times when you're craving chocolate sweets. Opt for vanilla ice cream when you head to the dining hall sundae bar, or pick up some Golden Oreos when you need a late-night study snack. Most vanilla snacks taste better than they sound. Who knows? You may find that you like vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce better than chocolate ice cream with hot fudge.
When you do eat chocolate, it's helpful to know how to deal if you do end up having GERD symptoms. Water often makes me feel better when I have acid reflux. Everyone is different, but water can neutralize symptoms so they are easier to deal with. We should be drinking plenty of fluids every day anyway, so you can stay hydrated while indulging in some yummy chocolate at the same time.
4. Antacid Tablets
We all have those days when we accidentally eat more sweets than we should. Normally, it isn't much of a problem if it only happens once in a while, but if you have acid reflux, you might be regretting your chocolate binge for the rest of the day. Luckily, antacid meds like Zantac or Prilosec can help relieve your symptoms. I use Zantac when I know I'm going to be eating lots of acidic foods, but I also use it when the reflux symptoms have already started. Try keeping a tablet in your purse or backpack so you can always have it handy in case you need it.
5. Eat Earlier
The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders suggests eating well before you go to bed, preferably three hours, so that lying down will not exacerbate acid reflux symptoms. Keeping an eye on the clock is useful so that you won't eat chocolate and other acidic foods too close to bedtime. I usually avoid chocolate after ten o'clock at night - but if I do eat chocolate late at night, I always have water and Zantac on hand.
It's no question that GERD can make eating chocolate more difficult, and you may not be able to always enjoy it the way Princess Anna does.
But remember that you're not the only one dealing with this problem; GERD affects 20% of the U.S. population. So next time you're craving chocolate ice cream at midnight, think more about how you might feel after eating it and plan accordingly. Most importantly, don't forget that there are other people out there who know how you're feeling and that there are plenty of easy ways to handle your chocolate sensitivity.