(known scientifically as the much cooler sounding pyrosis) is caused by stomach acidthat highly caustic stuff that breaks down all our foodentering the esophagus. This can happen for a lot of reasons, but the most common one by far is certain foods temporarily loosening the lower esophageal sphincter, which ordinarily keeps anything in the stomach from, well, coming back up.
Despite its name, the burning pain you feelwhich may strike anywhere from your chest to your arms to your tonguedoesnt actually involve your heart, but as a lovely side effect many people misinterpret the pain as life-threatening and wind up at the hospital.
So whats to be done about this gastro-offender? Sufferers of chronic heartburn should look into medication and ask if they have a disorder called Acid Reflux, but those of us who only encounter heartburn occasionally can avoid it by following these rules.
Nothing stirs up stomach acid like an evening spent gorging at the trough. Anyone who loves a meal that leaves you three belt sizes larger, be ready to chow down on antacids or drink plenty of water. But dont be surprised if you find yourself whimpering and clutching your chest.
Everything good is bad for you.
Fans of chocolate, citrus, caffeine (particularly coffee), beef, soda, and tomatoes: were sorry to say it, but youre putting your esophaguses at risk. Well, not really at risk, but by consuming too many inflammatory foodssay, eating Beef, Bean and Cheese casserole for dinner and a Sundae Pizza for dessertyou virtually guarantee a weakened LES and a burning throat. Thats not to say you need to drop any of these things entirely, but as in most things, moderation is the key to pleasant living. Oh, and bad news for Weekly Libation fans: alcohols on this list, too.
Obesity is still our enemy.
Heartburn is increasingly likely as you get increasingly heavy. Yet another reason to keep your weight at a healthy level by moderating your food intake and complementing it with plenty of exercise! Of course, that leads into..
Dont strain yourself.
At least, not immediately after eating a heavy meal! Though you should never exercise on an empty stomach, its not a good idea to go for a jog following a Mardi Gras party, either. Straining your body can loosen your LES and stir up your stomach acids, particularly if theyve just dealt with a lot of food.
Be gentle with your stomach.
Any position or effort which puts strain on your stomach may force some acid back up. Exercising, of course, plays a part, but so does lying down or bending over. Avoid going to bed for at least three hours following your dinner; from a dietary standpoint, you should be doing that anyway!
Eat low-risk foods.
These include apples; vegetables like broccoli and carrots; fish, skinless chicken breasts, and lean beef; eggs; water; low-fat desserts, and most grains. Remember, its not that you cant eat the troublemakers, but you should balance your gastronomic expeditions between those and the safer foods.
If heartburn does strikeand lets face it, it probably will at some pointbe sure to take some antacids. If you dont happen to have any Tums on hand, drink plenty of water, do not lie down, and try to avoid unnecessary physical activities. And if nothing seems to help, reflect on the fact that at least you had a delicious meal!
Here are some heartburn-safe recipes for you to enjoy:
- Chicken Breasts with Pears and Zinfandel (minus the shallots)
- Baked Apple Delight
- German Soft Pretzels
- Honey-Ginger London Broil (minus the onions)