Monday, February 05, 2007

Score Against Heartburn This Super Bowl Sunday

(HealthDay News) -- The Super Bowl-sized spread of food that football fans crave is no touchdown for the tummy, experts warn.

Indulging in party favorites like nachos, pizza, chili, wings and beer leaves many people open to being tackled by heartburn; most often caused by the reflux or backwash of acid from the stomach up in to the esophagus.

Dr. Stuart Spechler, professor of internal medicine in digestive diseases at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, offers some prevention and treatment plays that can help you do an end run around heartburn.

First up, try to avoid fatty foods. That can be tough because, "as a general rule of thumb, anything that tastes really good is likely to give you heartburn," Spechler said in prepared statement. "And the reason is the fat content. Fat does a lot of things that promote heartburn. It stops the stomach from emptying well, so now, you have more material in the stomach that's ready to reflux."

Some people try to reduce stomach acid by eating or drinking certain foods, such as milk. This usually doesn't work, Spechler said. He recommended medications such as H2 blockers, antacids, or proton pump inhibitors.

"If you know you're going to eat something that ordinarily gives you heartburn, there are medications that you can take before eating that food that might help," he said.
Histamine receptor (H2) blockers (for example, Pepcid and Zantac) slow the production of stomach acid and are generally available over the counter. Taking an H2 blocker a half hour before you eat may help prevent heartburn.

Antacids soak up excess stomach acid, but they don't prevent the stomach from producing more acid. You may be able to prevent heartburn by taking some antacid tablets to soak up acid currently being produced in the stomach, along with an H2 blocker to slow stomach acid production, Spechler said.

Proton pump inhibitors, such as Nexium, Prilosec or Prevacid, are the most powerful type of medication and are best suited for people with ongoing heartburn.

"They're very powerful at stopping the stomach from making acid, but it takes a number of hours or even days for them to reach their full effect. So, if you want to eat a pizza in the next half hour, it's not going to stop the acid that you're going to make in that time," Spechler said.
More information
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about heartburn.

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