HEARTBURN and REFLUX IN SENIORS by our Senior Advisor Sharon Fillyaw

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Have you ever had a burning sensation in your throat/chest or a feeling that your meal hasn’t “gone all the way down” after you’ve eaten? This very
common occurence is referred to as acid reflux or the more chronic gastroesophageal disease (GERD). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) defines GERD as a relaxation of the esophageal sphincter resulting in a backflow of the acidic contents of the stomach. Nearly 40 million Americans suffer in some degree from this condition and over 13 billion dollars is spent on reflux medications each year.

According to a study involving radioactive tracing, gastric (stomach) emptying occurs 4-5 hours after meal consumption (Camilleri et al, Am Jrnl Physiology 257:284,1989)- however, as one grows older this time increases and the more fatty the meal – the more time needed for digestion.

Symptoms of GERD include:

Hoarsness/Laryngitis
Bad Breath
Difficulty swallowing/lump in throat
Asthma
Chest Pain
Ear Ache
Dry Cough

and in more severe cases: vomiting

WebMD suggests limiting and/or avoiding the following foods for those who suffer from Acid Reflux/GERD

Citrus Fruits: (oranges, grapefruit, kiwi etc.)

Caffeine

Tomatoes

Garlic

Onion

Alcohol

Cheese

Nuts

High Fat Foods

Processed Foods/Fast Foods

Carbonated Beverages

There are a number of OTC (over the counter) medications available known as proton pump inhibitors that help reduce the amount of stomach acid. This alone cannot cure the condition; it is also a combination of lifestyle and dietary changes.

Remember, everyone is different, you may be able to have a glass of wine and steak with no symptoms, but a glass of orange juice may give you excruciating reflux. Keep a food diary to determine your particular triggers and make the necessary adjustments to your diet and eating schedule. Try to notice WHEN you feel heartburn and record the time, type and size of the meal which preceded it.

However, according to an article by Dr. Jamie Koufman (New York Times 11/14) one of the best ways to avoid reflux is to simply avoid eating within three (3) hours of bedtime. Americans typically overeat particularly late into the evening and this exacerbates the GERD considerably. By reducing the amount of fat, sugar and processed foods eaten late night will help alleviate your reflux. If you are in a situation where you absolutely need to eat late at night, perhaps an event – try to consume small portions and stay up for at least 3-4 hours before retiring to bed.

So in short – No late night eating!!

Be sure to watch Sharon’s Full Body and Fitness Workout on Comcast Channel’s 3, 5 and 22; Verizon Channels 24, 26 and 28 on Mondays at 10a.m. and Tuesdays at 6:30p.m.

Remember to take care of yourself and…

Live Healthy!

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