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America Asks About Heartburn & GERD

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Heartburn Prevention Tips for Spicy Food Lovers

You don’t have to stop eating spicy foods just because you have heartburn.

Dispelling Myths About Heartburn Triggers continued...

“Still,” Gerson says, “it’s commonsense that if a particular food happens to cause you problems, the best advice is to avoid it.”

Since even heartburn sufferers can be misled by popular misconceptions, experts recommend keeping a food diary for several weeks.

“As soon as heartburn strikes, jot down what and how much you ate,” suggests dietitian Elaine Magee, author of Tell Me What to Eat If I Have Acid Reflux. “Also keep track of foods you thought might cause trouble but don’t. That way you won’t have to eliminate foods unnecessarily.”

Heartburn Prevention: Eat Smaller Servings

Not ready to let heartburn force you to say no to salsa caliente? The next best strategy, then, is to limit the amount you eat.

“When you eat a large meal, pressure on the valve increases. So there’s a predisposition to reflux after a big meal,” Sheth says. The problem is worse if the meal causes you to belch, since that requires the valve at the top of the stomach to open. When it does, it allows trapped air to escape, sometimes bringing up acidic stomach contents along with it. For some people, drinking carbonated beverages along with a meal can exacerbate the problem.

Fatty meals can also increase the risk of reflux. “Eating fatty foods delays stomach emptying, since fat takes longer to digest,” explains Gerson. “The longer food remains in the stomach, the more chance there is of reflux.” To help prevent heartburn and GERD, choose roasted, grilled, or baked foods over fried foods, and go easy on butter.

Heartburn Prevention: Eat Early and Often

Some heartburn sufferers find relief by eating smaller meals distributed more frequently throughout the day -- a light breakfast, a midmorning snack, a light lunch followed by a midafternoon snack, for example. Scheduling dinner early can also help.

About 50% of heartburn sufferers have nighttime reflux, according to Gerson. This form can be especially unpleasant because when you’re lying down, more stomach contents can flow up into the esophagus. Nighttime reflux can also disturb sleep. Gerson’s tip? Eat dinner at least three hours before bedtime. That’s enough time to allow the stomach to empty before you hit the pillow.

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