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Holiday Season Could Ring in “Heartburn Season

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“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,” Dr. Spechler said.

Antacids can help if foods consumed generate heartburn. Antacids act like a sponge to soak up the excess stomach acid, but they do nothing to prevent the stomach from creating more acid. So it may help to take some antacid tablets to soak up acid currently being produced and take an H2 receptor blocker to slow the stomach from producing further acid.

What is heartburn?

Heartburn is caused most often by the reflux or backwash of acid from the stomach up into the esophagus, which is the long tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach. A valve at the end of the esophagus is supposed to function as a one-way release, relaxing to allow food into the stomach and closing back up so food and acid in the stomach stay there while the food is digested. If there is a leaky valve, gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, may result. The primary symptom is heartburn.

“As a general rule of thumb anything that tastes really good is likely to give you heartburn,” Dr. Spechler said. “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. It also further weakens that leaky valve.”

Food myths

Eating or drinking certain types of foods, such as milk, in an attempt to reduce stomach acid generally doesn’t work, said Dr. Spechler, who is a member of the American Gastroenterological Association’s Committee on GI Research.

“We used to use milk as an antacid, but it’s really a very poor antacid,” he said. “Most of the foods that we eat
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