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Preventing Summertime Heartburn

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Updated June 27, 2008

Summer is the time for picnics and quick and easy meals. It can also be a time of increased heartburn. Knowing what foods can trigger your heartburn, what you can eat, and how you can prevent heartburn can help you reduce those heartburn episodes.

Foods and beverages that are most often heartburn triggers:

  • Fatty meats
  • Fried foods
  • Citrus fruits
  • Citrus juices
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
  • Excessive alcohol consumption (especially red wine)
  • Tomatoes and tomato-based products
  • Caffeinated beverages, such as coffee
  • Carbonated beverages, such as colas
  • Peppers
  • Garlic and onions

Foods you can eat for a heartburn-free summer:

Meat
Grill your meats instead of frying, and choose only lean meats. You can still enjoy burgers at your picnics, when you use only the leanest meat and grill them instead of frying.

Salads and Side Dishes
Your salads can be just as tasty when you use carrots or other milder vegetables, instead of tomatoes. An old favorite at picnics, potato salad, can still be enjoyed without the heartburn.

What You Drink
Instead of drinking carbonated drinks, such as colas, drink water, non-citrus fruit drinks, or iced tea. Also, if you want to consume alcoholic beverages, drink less or drink such ones as wine coolers, which contain less alcohol.

Eat smaller meals.
Large meals expand your stomach and increase upward pressure against the esophageal sphincter. The stomach will also produce more acid.

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Other ways you can reduce your summertime heartburn:

Don't lie down for about two hours after you eat.
Gravity helps to keep the stomach juices from backing up into the esophagus and assists the flow of food and digestive juices from the stomach to the intestines.

Elevate your head a few inches while you sleep.
Lying down flat presses the stomach's contents against the LES. With the head higher than the stomach, gravity helps reduce this pressure. You can elevate your head in a couple of ways. You can place bricks, blocks or anything that's sturdy securely under the legs at the head of your bed. You can also use an extra pillow, or a wedge-shaped pillow, to elevate your head. Read this article for more tips on easing nighttime heartburn.

Maintain a reasonable weight.
Obesity increases abdominal pressure, which can then push stomach contents up into the esophagus. According to some statistics, approximately 35 percent of overweight persons experience heartburn. The good news is that for many people, as little as a 10 percent decrease in weight will improve their heartburn symptoms.

Don't smoke.
Nicotine relaxes the esophageal sphincter. Smoking also stimulates the production of stomach acid.

Relax.
While stress hasn't been linked directly to heartburn, it is known that it can lead to behaviors that can trigger heartburn. Follow these relaxation tips to alleviate stress, and thus make stress-related heartburn less likely.

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Additional Resources:

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Sources:

Magee, Elaine: Tell Me What to Eat If I Have Acid Reflux. Book-mart Press: New Page Books, 2001, ISBN: 1564145743.

Sklar, Jill and Cohen, Annabel:Eating or Acid Reflux:Marlowe & Company; Imprint of Avalon Publishing Group, Inc. 2003, ISBN: 1569244928.

Rodger A. Liddle, MD, professor of medicine and gastroenterologist, Duke University.

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