Heartburn and Acid Reflux: Foods to Avoid & Foods that Relieve
One of the most common medical problems associated with digestive disorders is heartburn.
Heartburn is a painful burning sensation in the esophagus, just below or behind the breastbone.
The pain often rises in your chest and may radiate to your neck or throat. Heartburn occurs when the esophagus is swollen and irritated due to the hydrochloric acid that passes through it from the stomach. Its most prevalent symptom is a throbbing pain that originates at the back of the ribs and spreads out up to the throat. Generally, the pain is experienced after each meal. The sufferer may feel that as if there is a liquid in the stomach that is going the throat. In some instances, there may be a pungent or vinegary taste in the mouth. Lying down flat or sleeping will augment and aggravate the pain.
There are additional symptoms of heartburn, which include burping or bloating.
In case the heartburn is caused by a Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), (a condition in which the stomach contents—food or liquid—leak backwards from the stomach into the esophagus) the sufferer may experience symptoms such as asthma, severe coughing, laryngitis, sore throat, bad breath, sinus infection and others.
The symptoms of heartburn are very different from that of the heart attack. A person suffers from a heart attack when there are chest pains. The pain is usually centered on the area around the chest and branches out to the left portion of the shoulders, neck as well as arms. Patients also feel weak and woozy accompanied by the unsettled stomach, vomiting and out of breath.
Heartburn can be brought on or worsened by pregnancy and by many different medications including:
✑ Calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure
✑ Progestin for abnormal menstrual bleeding or birth control
✑ Anticholinergics (e.g., for sea sickness)
✑ Certain bronchodilators for asthma
✑ Tricyclic antidepressants
✑ Dopamine for Parkinson’s disease
✑ Sedatives for insomnia or anxiety
✑ Beta-blockers for high blood pressure or heart disease
Pay attention to heartburn and treat it by changing the foods consumed, especially if symptoms appear often. Over time, ongoing reflux can damage the lining of your esophagus and cause serious problems. The good news is that making changes to certain habits can go a long way to preventing heartburn and other symptoms of GERD.
Foods To Avoid:
✗ Caffeine, carbonated beverages
✗ Citrus fruits and juices
✗ Tomatoes and tomato sauces
✗ Spicy or fatty foods, full-fat or high-fat foods, and dairy products
✗ Peppermint and spearmint
Foods that Relieve Heartburn:
✓ Spices like fennel and cayenne
✓ Mild Ginger Tea
✓ Mint Tea
✓ Apples, pineapples, bananas, pears
✓ Papaya or papaya enzymes
✓ Yogurt with active, live cultures
✓ Low-fat milk
✓ Sugarless gum
Eating Habits and Lifestyle Changes to Incorporate:
✦ Simply changing what you eat is not enough. You also have to change how you eat.
✦ Eat smaller meals.
A full stomach puts extra pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), increasing the chance that food will reflux. People who eat two to three large meals a day instead of four to six smaller ones are more likely to have heartburn.
✦ Avoid eating in bed when you cannot fully sit up.
Also, avoid eating or lying down within 2-3 hours of bedtime.
✦ Avoid bending over or exercising just after eating, but slow walking a little after eating can help stimulate the digestive system and might reduce stomach acid.
✦ Lose weight if you are overweight. Obesity increases abdominal pressure, which can push stomach contents up into the esophagus. In some cases, GERD symptoms disappear completely after an overweight person loses 10-15 pounds.
✦ Stop smoking.
Chemicals in cigarette smoke exacerbate damage to the esophagus.
✦ Sleep with the head raised about 6 inches.
Sleeping with the head higher than the stomach reduces the likelihood that partially digested food will reflux into the esophagus. Place books, bricks, or blocks securely under the legs at the head of your bed. Use a wedge-shaped pillow under your mattress. Most times, sleeping on extra pillows will do little for relieving heartburn.
✦ Avoid tight-fitting belts or garments around the waist.
They squeeze the stomach and may force food to reflux.
✦ Reduce stress. Try yoga, tai chi, or meditation.
Medical providers will most likely suggest over-the-counter medications such as:
✦ Antacids, like Maalox or Mylanta, work by neutralizing stomach acid.
✦ H2 blockers, like Pepcid AC, Tagamet, and Zantac, reduce stomach acid production.
✦ Proton pump inhibitors, like Prilosec OTC, stop nearly all stomach acid production.
A special note about anti-acid medications:
Researchers have found a link between long-term use of anti-acid reflux medications and hip fractures. These results suggest that the risk increased the longer people were taking these medications, which lower stomach acid levels, but affect the body’s absorption of calcium, (which in turn could lead to osteoporosis and fractures). Long term use of acid-reflux medication may also affect vitamin B12 levels because the body cannot absorb the vitamin without stomach acid to uncouple the vitamin from protein in food.
Before people try heartburn relieving foods or medications, they should check with their health care provider to ensure that their heartburn is not caused by a medical condition or illness prior to trying foods that relieve heartburn. The principle thing to remember is that heartburn can suggest the potential of dangerous conditions that need medical treatment. Even by avoiding known offender foods and trying natural cures, your heartburn may not relent, and ignoring the problem can lead to a damaged esophagus or a very unhealthy stomach.
Resources: health.com, livestrong.com, abcnews.com