Heartburn, also known as acid reflux, is a condition in which the individual experiences a burning sensation in the chest. It is caused by the upward movement of the acidic gastric contents into the gullet or esophagus, causing irritation of the mucous lining. In addition to the discomfort, the acid may cause a bitter taste in the mouth if it reaches as far as the pharynx.
Some foods that intensify or trigger heartburn may not be the same for all individuals. These foods include spices like garlic or raw onions, black pepper, tomatoes, citrus fruit and vinegar. Fatty foods may also trigger heartburn, because they slow down the transit of food through the gut, which keeps the stomach filled for a longer period. This in turn puts extended pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is the circular band of muscle that normally keeps the lower end of the gullet closed in order to keep the gastric contents in the stomach. The overstretching of the LES leads to regurgitation of the contents of the stomach upwards.
What foods should a person with heartburn choose instead?
Firstly, fatty foods should be cut out of the diet as much as possible. This includes fatty meat, baked goods and fried foods. Instead, the choice should be for lean meats (including poultry) and fish, which have little fat. These can be baked, grilled, steamed or broiled according to taste – only not fried or smothered in rich sauces.
Are plant foods useful in heartburn?
Other good food choices include legumes, fruits, whole grains and vegetables.
For breakfast, traditional fatty foods like bacon or ham may be substituted with oatmeal, fresh fruit, raisins and perhaps a hint of cinnamon for flavor.
Oatmeal has a high fiber content, which promotes healthy bowel habits, reduces portion size, and tastes good as well. Oatmeal with milk and fresh fruit provide an attractive alternative to fatty meats for breakfast.
Fresh bananas are great for preventing acid reflux, because they contain very little acid. They coat the mucous lining of the esophagus, thus strengthening mucosal defenses against reflux. The fiber in bananas also speeds up the passage of food through the gut, preventing the stasis of food for longer than necessary in the stomach, and thus limiting acid production, while reducing the chances of acid reflux.
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