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Heartburn Help

 

More than 60 million Americans are plagued by acid reflux (which may cause a searing sensation in the chest, a dry cough, or trouble swallowing), and research suggests those numbers are growing. Now comes news from the Food and Drug Administration that the country’s most popular remedies—proton pump inhibitors like Nexium and Prilosec—raise the risk of contracting an infection that causes severe diarrhea, pain, and fever. This joins previous reports that the meds can make bone fractures more likely and lead to dependency. So if you’re feeling the burn, you might want to consider these three lifestyle tweaks first:

1. Skip soda and sports drinks 
“They’re extremely acidic and can damage the throat and esophagus of people with reflux,” says Jamie Koufman, M.D., coauthor of Dropping Acid: The Reflux Diet Cookbook and Cure.

2. Eat smaller and leaner
 Normally the lower esophageal sphincter keeps stomach acid down where it belongs, but the more food you have in your belly at once, the greater the pressure on that barrier. Taking in less at one sitting can help, as can cutting back on greasy foods, according to William Chey, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Michigan. That’s because fat is digested more slowly, keeping your stomach full longer.

3. Chew gum, especially after meals 
It prompts your body to make more saliva, which neutralizes acid, says Patricia Raymond, M.D., associate professor of clinical internal medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School. Gum may also help move food through your stomach faster.

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