Give me five... heartburn triggers to avoid

Leery of being visited by that old flame, heartburn? Meet the fiery five - lifestyle and diet factors to avoid if you don't want to get burned.

  1. Super-sized meals
    We're not just talking about the mega-meals from fast food restaurants (though those don't help heartburn either). When you gobble down too much food at one sitting, you overwork your lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the gate between your gullet and your gut. An overworked LES is like a gate with broken hinges, and it has a tough time keeping out what shouldn't come back up into your esophagus - namely, stomach acid.
     
  2. Post-meal naps
    Sprawling out in a post-meal food coma does your digestive system no favors. But gravity does. Gravity is your friend. It keeps food moving down in the direction of your stomach and your intestines. Sit up for a while after chowing down. To keep the burn from getting into bed with you, elevate the head of your bed about 10 cm.
     
  3. Trigger foods and drinks
    Among the foods most likely to set the heartburn fires a-burning are the terrible ten: high-fat foods, spicy foods, garlic, French fries, onions, mint, coffee, tea, tomato sauce, and chocolate. Some of the most fun food around, right? If you can't completely cut out the triggers, at least aim for moderation.
     
  4. Cigarette smoking
    As if you needed another reason to quit smoking! Just like when you eat too quickly or too much at once, cigarette smoking damages the LES. Also, smoking can cause dry mouth, depriving you of a powerful acid fighter - saliva.
     
  5. Alcohol
    Alcohol wreaks all sorts of havoc on the LES and on the rest of the digestive system. Relaxing the LES, churning up stomach acids, disrupting the normal rhythm of swallowing, alcohol is a literal cocktail of heartburn triggers.

The contents of this health site are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition.

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