How to Fight Heartburn and Reflux

How to Fight Heartburn and Reflux

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A substantial amount of Americans suffer from “acid indigestion” or “heartburn.” Others may be diagnosed with GERD: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. These conditions may be triggered by the “typical” American diet and lifestyle habits. The occurrence of these symptoms has increased with the growing epidemic of obesity.  

Well, let’s break the issues down… What are these conditions? How can we address their symptoms?

In heartburn and reflux, acid from the stomach flows upward into the lower end of the esophagus. This can be caused by pressure pushing upward, or relaxation of the otherwise tight muscle that normally keeps acid in the stomach. Pressure can be caused by overeating at a meal, pregnancy, some types of exercise, or being overweight. In the case of the muscle, it can be affected by actual changes in the muscle or substances that relax the muscle. The symptoms, in turn, can be a burning sensation and/or pain.

Foods, beverages, and even certain medications can cause the muscle to relax. Stress, lack of sleep and smoking can also contribute to indigestion. Eating, especially large amounts before bedtime is another element.

Despite the name, heartburn is not a condition of the heart, but the symptoms can mimic heart conditions. Regrettably, some people dismiss symptoms of heart complications, by blaming them on indigestion. Random indigestion or heartburn is not a problem. When it occurs on a regular basis, as in GERD, it can cause ulceration in the esophagus, bleeding ulcers, and an increased risk of esophageal cancer.

GERD is diagnosed when the reflux becomes more chronic and problematic. This occurs more than twice a week, becomes worse even with increasing doses of OTC antacids, causes problems with sleep, interferes with normal activities, causes hoarseness or worsening of asthma, invokes a chronic cough, causes chest pain, causes trouble swallowing, or causes a loss of appetite due to symptoms.

As the article stated before, there are some foods that contribute to the cause of reflux, while other foods are more likely to irritate already inflamed tissues. Examples of trigger foods that can cause relaxation of the muscle would be fatty foods, alcohol, chocolate, coffee, tomato, onion, garlic, mint, caffeine and carbonated beverages.

Foods that cause physical irritation might be abrasive grain foods (like some crackers or dry cereals), nuts, or some raw vegetables. Others might be acidic foods (citrus fruit/juices, tomato products) or spicy foods (pepper, chili powder, curry). Try using softer foods and beverages to provide nutrient needs when the esophagus is irritated.

When it comes to fiber, try including more soluble fiber foods found in oats, cooked vegetables and skinned fruit. Cooking raw vegetables like steaming or roasting can reduce the abrasion. It can be helpful to keep a food and beverage record, as well as a symptom record to identify any triggers.

Other habits that can be helpful might be eating smaller, frequent meals (rather than a few large meals), eating slowly, and chewing food thoroughly. You should also try stopping eating about two to three hours before bedtime and sleeping with your upper body elevated. Keep up with fluid intake, which is at least 64oz. spread throughout the entire day.

If being overweight is contributing to the reflux, weight loss would be an option. Healthy weight loss should be achieved by eating smaller portions of healthy foods spread over at a minimum of 3 meals. This pattern can help reduce total calorie intake while sustaining energy levels and putting you in better control over food choices. The smaller portions and more consistent food intake can directly improve the reflux as well. You should also make sure that your diet is nutritionally adequate, since some foods may be limited owing to reduced food intake and because you are avoiding reflux triggers.

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Heartburn/Reflux article

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Will Children Be Attracted to Caffeinated Gum?

Caffeinated Gum?

Wrigley’s gum, the national gum company powerhouse, will be launching a new chewing gum next month with added caffeine. This new gum, called Alert Energy Caffeine Gum, is supposedly only to be targeted towards an adult population. We’ll see if that sticks (no pun intended)…  

The gum looks like it’s going to have about 40mg of caffeine per piece of gum. This is about half the amount of caffeine in 1 cup of coffee. So, on one hand there’s a small amount of caffeine in the stick of gum. But, on the other hand, what if you chew multiple pieces of gum per day? That’s a lot of caffeine that can add up really quick. And knowing Americans and our problems with portion control, I could see a lot of people consuming a lot of caffeine without trying even hard. It’s bad enough that healthcare providers are currently advising people to cut back on caffeine. But, with this added source- I think people really need to be careful and aware of what they’ll be consuming.

Normally people should not ingest more than 200-300 mg of caffeine per day. When people consume more than this, side effects are associated like shakiness, sleep problems, and GI disturbances.

The new gum will be sold in convenience stores and food retailers all over America. This isn’t the first caffeinated gum to hit the market though but, it’ll be the first from Wrigley’s brand and its associated marketing power behind it.  

Energy drinks have become an in-demand product over the years. According to Euromonitor International, a global market research firm, U.S. gum sales are down 3.8% since 2008, while sales of energy drinks are up 41% during the same period. Wrigley’s sales make up more than half the gum market, according to Euromonitor.

Again, Wrigley claims that it intends to market the gum to consumers age 25 and older. A warning label is placed on the back of the gum package saying it’s “not recommended for children.” The public should be concerned about this. In October, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against energy drink maker Monster Beverage after a 14-year-old girl died of cardiac arrest. The suit charges that she had 2 of the drinks in 24 hours before her death. The FDA has also started a probe into whether there are deaths tied to another energy drink, Five Hour Energy.

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Why Do We Overeat?

Why Do We Overeat?

A lot of factors go into why, we as people, overeat. Having some idea of our behaviors is helpful in order to solve our problem and try to do better with it. Researchers recently did a study that looked at the effect of 3 common overeating triggers… Alcohol- Lack of Sleep- and TV.

The study found that alcohol had the strongest effect on food consumption, followed by sleep deprivation. Watching television had the least strongest effect of the 3 triggers. The effect of alcohol was double; yes I said double, that of sleep deprivation, which was double the effect of watching television.  

Well, it turns out that all 3 behaviors lead to an increase in circulating ghrelin. Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates your appetite. So, there is a biological foundation behind our weakened resolution when these lifestyle factors are in play. The scenario could be characterized by biologically unnecessary appetite stimulation paired with a heightened response to environmental food cues, which causes us to overeat!

The authors of this study discussed that with all 3 of these triggers combined- this promotes an increase in acute caloric consumption. These lifestyle patterns are not merely correlated with obesity but likely contribute to it by encouraging excessive eating.

Obviously not everyone eats in front of the TV and many people indulge in alcohol only occasionally. These folks don’t have a problem to solve though. It’s when these types of habits become a lifestyle that they become important factors in adding and maintaining those extra pounds.

If you think you have either of these lifestyle habits going on, then 1) limiting TV time and 2) limiting the number of episodes per week you indulge alcohol, should be obvious goals. Avoiding being sleep-deprived is more complicated, but trying to arrange your schedule to get a full 7- to 8 hours of sleep per night, is a good place to start (or adding a regular nap to make up some of the difference).

Mindless Eating comes into player here. Mindless eating is taking that extra time to actually enjoy your food that you’re eating- without all those multitasking duties that everyone does. So, instead of watching TV or reading the newspaper during a meal, actually sit and chew your food thoroughly and enjoy your meal. This way, you become more aware of how much you’re eating and become full faster.

Why Do You Overeat?

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