5 Ways to Avoid Heartburn
Article Date: Dec 9, 2013

Man with heartburn

By Sumeet Mittal, M.B.B.S, Esophageal and General Surgeon

For some, it's as inevitable as last-minute shopping, long lines in the store and too much pumpkin pie.

It's heartburn, a condition in which stomach contents such as food, acid and bile back up into the esophagus. Sixty million Americans suffer from heartburn at least once a month; it can disrupt everything from work to sleep.

Holiday "together" time can make things worse, because of long hours at the table and bad food choices. Not only do many Americans gain weight during the holidays, they can aggravate their gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) by choosing the wrong foods.

Symptoms of GERD include regurgitation (feeling of food coming back up), bitter taste, water brash, night time coughing or choking and morning hoarseness. GERD also may aggravate asthma and chronic cough as well as contribute to pneumonia. Acid suppression medications, such as the purple pill and others, are very effective at suppressing acidity in the stomach and "treating" heartburn but the actual reflux of stomach contents continues even while a patient is on the medications.

Bottom line—it's important to pay attention to what your body is telling you to avoid. Common triggers are coffee, chocolate, onions, tomatoes and red wine. So are fast food meals, carbonated drinks, fried foods and certain juices and dairy products. Many are patient-specific, so it's up to everyone to keep track of what causes that uncomfortable burning sensation that can ruin even the happiest of celebrations.

Some basics to remember:
  • Don't overeat
  • Eat slowly and chew food well
  • Instead of big meals, have smaller, frequent meals; larger and higher fat meals tend to stay in the stomach longer, causing more reflux
  • Don't go to bed for at least three hours after your last meal and try to stay upright during that time
  • Drink plenty of water, stay active and don't smoke
If you have chronic or severe heartburn, see your doctor. And remember: left untreated, heartburn and GERD can cause a lot of misery—and even esophageal cancer.


Reader Comments
Posted: Dec 10 2013 12:52 PM CST by Nancy Robertson

For almost 12 years I took perscription medication for what was diagnosed as acid reflux disease. I even had 4 endoscopy/botox preceedures on my esophogus. Turns out I never had acid reflux but rather a condition called achalasia, which is a non straignt espohogus and sphichter problems. I had surgery to correct the problem a year ago and I have had no problems since. I no longer feel like I am having a heart attack all the time. Wish I would of had the surgery years ago. My advice is don't assume it is acid reflux.




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Sumeet Mittal, M.B.B.S

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