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Chocolate, wine, spicy foods may be OK for heartburn, Stanford study finds

Patients have been known to hug Lauren Gerson, MD, so overjoyed are they at hearing her words. What does she say to them? Go ahead and eat chocolate. Indulge your passion for spicy cuisine. Drink red wine. Enjoy coffee when you want it, have that orange juice with breakfast and, what the heck, eat a grapefruit, too. Gerson says that for most heartburn patients, there's insufficient evidence to support the notion that eating these foods will make heartburn worse - or that cutting them out will make it go away.

Many of Gerson's patients walk into her clinic upset, having been advised elsewhere to severely limit their diets to help reduce their heartburn symptoms. But recent research by Gerson, assistant professor of medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine, indicates there's no evidence to support a need for dietary deprivation, except for the unlucky few whose heartburn is clearly triggered by a particular food.

Gerson's advice runs counter to the long-standing recommendations of virtually every professional organization of gastroenterologists, including the American College of Gastroenterology, as well as the National Institutes of Health. For the past 15 to 20 years, the standard treatment for heartburn has been to cut out the aforementioned culinary joys - along with fried and fatty foods, all alcoholic and carbonated beverages, tobacco and mint - and to stop eating three hours before lying down. In addition, you're advised to keep your weight under control. Those lifestyle changes coupled with antacids and various over-the-counter and prescription medications have been the accepted first line of treatment.

But Gerson, a practicing gastroenterologist and director of Stanford's Esophageal and Small Bowel Disorder Center, said the stream of "very unhappy" patients referred to her clinic by outside doctors caused her to doubt the efficacy of the usual treatment advice. "The patients were on very bland diets and cutting out coffee
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Source:Stanford University Medical Center


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