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November 2018

Managing Heartburn

Heartburn is the burning feeling in your chest that is usually caused by stomach acid backing up into your esophagus.  It may leave an acid or bitter taste in your mouth or throat.  Most adults have experienced heartburn on occasion, and with age it may be more common.  When it comes to managing heartburn, diet and a healthy lifestyle can play a key role.

How Do You “Spell Relief”?
Although any food can potentially trigger heartburn, some foods are more likely to cause problems while others may help manage symptoms.

KEY OFFENDERS:

  • Caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, peppermint, onions, garlic and spicy foods may cause a flare-up.
  • Acidic foods, including citrus, tomato and vinegar, can  aggravate heartburn. Check ingredients on food labels to avoid citric and ascorbic acids which are often added to bottled, canned and packaged foods.
  • Fatty Foods - avoid fried foods and keep added fat portions in moderation (butter, salad dressing, oil). Be mindful of hidden fat in chips, donuts and pastries. 

Consider keeping a log of what you eat and drink each day. Note when symptoms flare-up to help identify patterns and foods that may be causing heartburn.

POSSIBLE PROTECTIVE FOODS:

  • Herbs such as parsley, fennel and ginger may aid in digestion and decrease acid reflux.
  • Calcium-rich foods are a natural heartburn remedy. Choose low fat dairy products: yogurt, milk or cheese.
  • Low acidic fruits & vegetables, including melon, bananas, asparagus, green beans and potatoes.
  • Whole grains, such as oatmeal, brown rice and quinoa are good sources of fiber to aid in digestion.
  • Lean meats, poultry and fish that are baked, grilled or broiled; protein-rich foods that are low in fat.

Lifestyle Factors to Manage Heartburn

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat smaller portions more frequently throughout the day.
  • Take smaller bites to eat more slowly.
  • Wear loose fitting clothing around the waist.
  • Avoid eating for 2-3 hours before lying down or going to bed.
  • Raise the head of your bed so your head and chest are higher than your feet.
  • Wait at least 2 hours after a meal before exercising.
  • Take time to relax: try yoga or meditation.
  • Avoid smoking and second hand smoke.

When to Seek Medical Advice
 If you are having heartburn more than a few times a week or using antacids for longer than 2 weeks, you should call your primary care provider.  It is important to address the cause of your specific digestive issue. You may have GERD, gastritis, a hiatal hernia or another medical issue. Left untreated, it can damage the esophagus and lead to other health issues.


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