Thursday, October 22, 2009

Heartburn or GERD

Question #1: “I am a 58 year old male, in good health, on a good diet and exercise regularly. I also like 2 to 3 glasses of red wine in the evening. I find, when I go to bed and lie down, after a couple of hours or so I wake up with great pain. Sometimes very uncomfortable stomach gas or indigestion, other times the burning sensation in the chest is terrifying. It feels like a heart attack. I drink a glass of milk and it goes away. Could it be the wine causing the problem?”

Answer: Yes, very much so. Alcohol is one of the main causes of heartburn. Milk can help some people, but not all. There are other reasons as well, and changes you can make to prevent heartburn.

What happens with Heartburn?

1. You eat food which travels down your throat (esophagus). The lining of the esophagus is only capable of handling food going into the stomach. Food is mild.

2. Food reaches the stomach and stimulates the release of a strong acid. This acid is necessary to break up the food (digestion).

3. If you eat too much, or poorly as listed below, the valve (hiatal sphincter, hence hiatus hernia) between the stomach and esophagus, which keeps the food in the stomach, is weakened by the large quantity of food putting pressure on it.

4. The result is the contents of the stomach together with the strong stomach acid are pushed into the esophagus. The contents may even come up your throat creating a sour taste in your mouth.

5. The pain is caused by the damage to the lining of the esophagus.


You are a candidate for heartburn if:

1. You are overweight. Excess weight in your abdomen presses against the stomach

2. You eat:
a. Large meals
b. Fatty meals - relaxes of the sphincter
c. Spicy meals
d. Foods with vinegar
e. Chocolate
f. Peppermint
g. Late at night

3. You drink:
a. Tomato or fruit juice
b. Gassy drinks
c. Alcohol - stimulates stomach acid secretion
d. Coffee - caffeine relaxes the sphincter
e. Mint teas
f. Late at night

4. You smoke. Smoking relaxes the esophageal sphincter

5. You are stressed

6. Wear tight belts so food is pushed up into your esophagus


Keep track of everything you eat for one week and when you have heartburn. Look for the reason.

1. Lose weight

2. Eat better
a. Smaller meals more often
b. Small meals at night
c. Low fat meals
d. Starchy meals at night
e. Avoid coffee, fruit juices, tomato juice, sodas, alcohol and peppermints at night
f. Drink water at night
g. Chew sugarless gum, which increases saliva production and washes away the gastric juices that back up into the esophagus.

3. Quit smoking

4. Relax

5. Loosen your belt

GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease)

GERD is the more serious, repeated heartburn. The stomach acid can actually corrode the esophagus, causing inflammation or scarring that makes it hard to swallow.


For most people, heartburn is an annoying but relatively harmless problem usually handled by lifestyle changes or over-the-counter drugs. For some, doctors may recommend drugs that are effective at relieving symptoms. For those who get no relief from drugs, or suffer side effects, there are surgical procedures. Ask your doctor.
Heartburn and Cancer
Acid reflux may be doing more damage than previously believed. Recent studies have found people with severe reflux are eight times more likely to develop esophageal cancer. In the worst cases, risk of esophageal cancer was 43 times greater than the risk for a person without heartburn.


Make changes in your diet to stay healthy and avoid heartburn, drugs and future complications.