Lifestyle and dietary changes can prevent heartburn.
Heartburn—a feeling of burning or pain under the ribs—is a common problem. Most people will experience it at some point, and pregnant women are particularly prone to the problem. For those that regularly suffer from heartburn the problem is no longer merely annoying but can interfere with the enjoyment of daily life. If you frequently have heartburn, please do go see your doctor—he or she can determine if prescription medication is indicated, or if there is another issue that needs to be addressed.
What causes heartburn? That burning feeling is caused by food and stomach acids backing up into the esophagus. This is generally the result of the lower esophageal sphincter relaxing too much, which permits the ‘backward’ flow. Heartburn is sometimes a symptom of GERD (Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease). Symptoms of GERD can include: frequent gas, heartburn, hoarseness, frequent bronchial infections, frequent cough, and chronic sore throat.
There are several foods that can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax and should generally be avoided by heartburn sufferers:
- Acidic foods—especially citrus fruits and tomatoes
- Fatty foods—particularly fried items and full-fat dairy
- Chocolate, licorice, peppermint, and spearmint
- Caffeine (in any form)
- High fat, highly spiced cold cuts (pastrami, for example
But every person is different. One of the best things you can do if you suffer from heartburn is keep a food diary. A simple small wire-bound notebook is easy to carry around—just jot down whatever you eat during the day, and note what foods seem to trigger your symptoms.
Non-diet things to do:
Smoking can also relax the lower esophageal sphincter, and smokers should try to quit.
Some people find elevating the head of their bed by about six inches helps in reducing nighttime heartburn.
Reduce stress—yoga and meditation can be helpful with this one, as well as simply finding a few quiet moments to yourself
Avoid tight clothing.
Don’t eat before exercising.
What can you eat? As a general rule, a high-fiber, low-fat diet is recommended. More specifically these foods have little chance of causing heartburn:
- Baked potatoes
- Green beans
- Lean meats
- Egg whites
- Feta cheese
- Goat cheese
- Low fat or fat free cream cheese
- Low fat or fat free soy cheese
- Fat free sour cream
- Whole grain bread
- Whole grain cereals
- Graham crackers
Low fat salad dressings
Some foods can actually make your tummy feel better! Papaya is rich in natural enzymes that help digestion. If you don’t care for the fruit, papaya can be found in pill form in health food stores. Anise seeds can relieve indigestion—sprinkle over yogurt, or make a tea from the seeds. Ginger is well-known for its ability to soothe an upset stomach, particularly tea made from powdered ginger (try a teaspoon of powdered ginger in a cup of hot water). Fennel is also recommended—try including it in soups and stews. Aloe Vera juice can also be soothing—look for it in health food stores on Observer.
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