Tell Me What to Eat If I Have Acid Reflux
OTC medications are just a Band-Aid
Do You Need a Specialist?
Half of reflux sufferers don’t know that acid reflux is a disease, said Magee. The harm in self-medicating is that people don’t look deeper at what is actually a chronic condition and would benefit from the help of a specialist.
What might a specialist find? Lesions in the esophagus that need to heal. A lower esophageal sphincter—the muscle that keeps the stomach juices from entering the esophagus—in need of surgical repair. In addition, because the rates of esophageal cancer have gone up, this diagnosis needs to be ruled out by a doctor.
Even more shocking is that after many years of acid reflux, the constant exposure to stomach acid actually changes the lining of the esophagus to where it resembles the lining of the intestine, Magee said. Although it’s the body’s way of trying to protect the esophagus—and patients say their heartburn actually improves at this stage—it’s a precancerous condition carrying a 30-fold increased risk of developing esophageal cancer.
“Even if you opt for surgery or find a medication that works for you right now, there is no cure for acid reflux,” she said. “So the more you know about what’s really going on—what can I do in my diet and in my lifestyle to discourage stomach acids from refluxing into my esophagus—the better you’re going to be. If you do opt for surgery, you want it to last. If you opt for medication, you want to make changes to complement the meds.”
That’s where the book’s most important chapter, “10 Food Steps to Freedom,” comes in. Magee details what’s good and bad for you, and why, and offers lots of tips. For example, “Chew gum on days you know you’re at risk for heartburn or acid reflux,” she advises—a fruit-flavored gum (since mint can be a trigger) for about 30 to 60 minutes after a meal. This will discourage acid reflux for up to two hours.
There are few triggers greater than the holidays. “That’s a time when people who don’t normally deal with heartburn suddenly have it,” she said. “It’s because we do everything wrong at the holidays. We indulge in high-fat foods, eat large amounts of food in one sitting, often late in the evening. We’re drinking more alcohol, we’re drinking later into the evening. We’re wearing tight clothing around the middle. These are all things we should not do, and we’re doing them at the holidays.”
The book is designed to help you gain a better understanding of the problem and then take control of it. Dr. Starpoli finds it helpful for his patients, who “like to have a handrail in this world of prescription writing.”
Published January 7, 2009
Silver Planet Feature Writer