Foods You Need To Be Careful When You Have Heartburn

By Dr Harold Gunatillake - Health Writer

There are acidic foods, there are alkaline foods. It may be necessary to focus on balancing acid and alkaline in the diet, mostly by eating more vegetables and certain fruits and fever meats and processed foods. The focus is on low acid food eating to minimise the symptoms caused by acid reflux. Now it seems becoming clear that the Western diet is more acidic and may be responsible for the increased risks of diabetes and heart disease.

This year, a small study found that restricting dietary acid could relieve reflux symptoms like coughing and hoarseness in patients who had not been helped by drug therapy, according to the journal Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology.

In the study, 12 men and eight women with reflux symptoms who hadn't responded to medication were put on a low-acid diet for two weeks, eliminating all foods and beverages with a pH lower than 5. The lower the pH, the higher the acidity; highly acidic foods and beverages include diet sodas (2.9 to 3.7), strawberries (3.5) and barbecue sauce (3.7). According to the study, 19 out of 20 patients improved on the low-acid diet, and three became completely asymptomatic.

Bottled foods and processed foods are acidic due to the high acidic preservatives used for increasing shelf life. Supermarkets are full of these foods, and due to the easy availability and storage in the home fridge, housewives are attracted to purchase them. Rise in consumption of these foods coincide with a staggering increase in esophageal cancer caused by chronic acid reflux.

Do not eat food with a pH below 5- no fruits except melons, bananas and grapes. Avoid tomatoes and onions if you suffer from acid reflux. Other vegetables detailed above may cause gastric reflux. Avoid high fat meats, dairy products, caffeine, chocolates, sodas, fried foods, alcohol and mints. Other foods like spiced curries, garlic and nuts may also cause hyperacidity.

Each person suffering from acid reflux may react differently to these acidic foods. You need to personalise your requirements which only you judge through a trial and error process.

Pepsin – a cause?
Pepsin in addition to acid is secreted from the mucous lining of the stomach. Pepsin digests proteins like meat. Pepsin is a digestive enzyme that can exist in the oesophagus, that can erode into the inner lining of the gullet.

Use at least three pillows to sleep, or elevate the head of your bed on blocks.

Studies show that sleeping on your left side is best. Sleeping on your left side tend to collect the gastric juice in the spacious fundus of the stomach. In a study in The Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, scientists recruited a group of healthy subjects and fed them high-fat meals on different days to induce heartburn.

Immediately after the meals, the subjects spent four hours lying on one side or the other as devices measured their esophageal acidity. Ultimately, the researchers found that "the total amount of reflux time was significantly greater" when the subjects lay on their right side.

Avoid eating four hours before bed.The kitchen cut-off time, doctors say, should be three to four hours before bed.

In a study published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology, a team of researchers put the rule to the test by recruiting 350 people and looking at whether their nighttime eating habits predicted their risk of gastroesophageal reflux disease. After controlling for smoking, body mass index and other things that influence heartburn, the researchers found that eating dinner within three hours of going to bed may increase reflux symptoms sevenfold.

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