When heartburn hits, how do you spell relief? If you’re like millions of Americans, you’ve been conditioned by advertizing to reach for something to provide symptomatic relief….fast. Never mind about the too many cups of coffee and donuts this morning, the chili dog and onion rings for lunch, the pizza and beer for dinner…we don’t have time to stop. Yet, like so many illness facing our country, examining and treating the cause of the problem would save so much suffering and billions of dollars in drugs. Dealing with heartburn and esophagitis without drugs can be challenging until you know how certain foods and lifestyle modifications influence it. This article outlines some of the simple and effective measures you can take.
(1) Eat small meals: Reducing the size of meals you eat creates less pressure in the stomach, thus reducing the regurgitation of food.
(2) Eat meals low in fat: High fat meals reduce the pressure at the lower esophageal sphincter, thus allowing regurgitation.
(3) Avoid these foods: Certain foods decrease the tone of the lower esophageal sphincter and should be avoided or eaten rarely: Onions, mint, chocolate and high fat foods, such as steak, pork, cheese, etc. The following foods increase the acidity of the contents of the stomach, so when regurgitated, they are even more destructive to the delicate lining of the esophagus: Tomatoes, coffee, alcohol and citrus. The classic late night dinner usually includes alcohol, a high-fat entree like filet mignon and is followed by coffee, a rich dessert and an after dinner chocolate-mint. Is it any wonder that the most commonly prescribed medications in the U.S. today are the anti-ulcer drugs?
(4) Avoid eating late and going straight to bed: Going to bed on a full stomach creates such high intra-abdominal pressure that when you recline, it allows regurgitation to occur.
(5) Work with gravity: Simply elevating the head of the bed (by 30 degrees) can reduce esophageal reflux dramatically.
(6) Weight reduction: Obesity is one of the major culprits because it increases intra-abdominal pressure, so if you need to lose weight, start immediately.
(7) Stop smoking: Smoking cigarettes increases stomach acidity.
(8) Avoid carbonated beverages: Though carbonated drinks are thought to reduce stomach acidity, they actually encourage belching, thus regurgitating acidic stomach contents.
(9) Some drugs contribute to the problem: The non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like ibuprofen), as well as tetracycline, doxycycline, potassium, quinidine and iron irritate the esophagus. Theophylline, some antihypertensives, progesterone and anticholinergics contribute as well. Check with your physician to see if you are on one of these medications.
10) Try some natural remedies: Consider aloe vera gel, one ounce up to twice a day. Just as it soothes external burns, so can heal and soothe an irritated esophagus. Deglycherhizinated licorice, known also as DGL, has been shown to be as effective as Tagamet in reducing pain from ulcers, without the cost or side-effects
Remember, patients are often prescribed drugs because physicians know
that people would rather take the easy way out. By addressing some of the above measures, you may avoid the development of your condition to the point that further medications become necessary.