According to specialists, the disease affects 40% of the Latin American population once a month; there are 2% who have it chronically. The chest burns and the throat burns. It is a different sensation, strange, impossible not to decipher it. Uncomfortable, annoying, it comes and goes and at times it gets worse; at others, it loosens.
This is gastroesophageal reflux (GER), also known as heartburn, and is one of the most common diseases among humans. It is a condition that develops “when the content of gastric juices causes bothersome symptoms and/or complications”, says Mariana Patrón Farías, nutritionist and director of Nutrim, a Nutritionists In Company consultant.
How is heartburn triggered?
It is generated when the stomach secretes acids in excess or when the mucosa fails to compensate them and in this sense, what is felt are the acids of the gastrointestinal juices. “These can manifest in the form of burning or burning in the area behind the sternum or as the return of gastric content to the mouth”, says Patrón Farías.
Data published by the EFE agency revealed that this condition affects approximately 40% of the Latin American population at least once a month, while 12 and 20% suffer from it once a week. On the other hand, there are 2% who have it chronically.
Among the possible causes, Horacio Rubio, a gastroenterologist and former president of the Inter-American Society of Digestive Endoscopy, explains that the condition is the result of the habits that each person has in terms of eating, resting and physical activity. “The main foods that cause this discomfort are sweets, spicy foods, fats, alcoholic beverages and coffee”, says the doctor. And among the reasons, it is because the food contains a high gastric permanence, which decreases the pressure of the lower esophageal sphincter, favoring the passage of acid content.
For its part, for smokers the news is not encouraging either. “Smoking also lowers the pressure of the lower esophageal sphincter, partly due to deep inspiration or the consequent cough that occurs. Consequently, intra-abdominal pressure increases and salivary bicarbonate secretion decreases, which is responsible for neutralizing acid”, says Patron Farías.
And although it is not something new, it is estimated that heartburn has advanced in the last 20 years due to changes in lifestyle and social customs. This is how the doctor highlights that this pathology is also directly associated with individual well-being, since stress, anxiety and a sedentary lifestyle are factors that not only enhance discomfort, but also promote it.
It is common to have to make express and quick lunches during the working day, without much time to think or plan the meal. It can also happen that there is no availability to exercise properly and that the whirlwind of the day causes emotional imbalance.
Based on this, Rubio insists that we must be attentive to the frequency of this pathology, since “one must differentiate between something occasional and something persistent. When it occurs repeatedly, it is essential to consult a specialist because it could be that something is failing”, says the expert.
Which people are more predisposed to heartburn?
Genetic factors- The predisposition to suffer increases if within the family group there are people who suffer from heartburn.
Obesity- Excess body fat is a factor that enhances the symptoms and their complications.
Smoking and alcohol- Smoking and drinking reduce the pressure of the lower sphincter of the esophagus, allowing the rise of gastric acid, which has a toxic effect on the mucosa.
Dietary factors- Although it is not completely proven, people who consume foods such as citrus fruits, tea, coffee, chocolate, onions, spicy foods and mint more frequently tend to be more predisposed to developing symptoms.
In turn, the intake of foods with fat and salt contribute to manifesting the sensation of heartburn “because they are foods that have a high gastric permanence that reduce the pressure of the lower esophageal sphincter, favoring the passage of acid content. For their part, these foods provide a lot of energy, which favors weight gain, that is, another risk factor”, says the nutritionist.
Intense physical exercise
Running, cycling, and lifting weights add to the list of risk factors, as bouncing can cause acid reflux.
What are the foods that help prevent heartburn?
Patron Farías and his team recommend 10 essential foods that help prevent heartburn. In any case, he emphasizes the importance of consulting an expert if necessary, since each patient has different energy requirements and food tolerance.
It is recommended that it be French or lactal style, and that it be lightly toasted. It is ideal for its high fat content, unlike the integral one that contains high levels of fiber, which slows down absorption in the stomach.
Among them, chicken, preferably the breast, as well as fish, mainly hake and sole, because they have low levels of fat and are quickly digestible. In addition, it is suggested to cook them in a simple way, as natural as possible: boiled or grilled, to avoid eating the toasted crusts that usually cause discomfort.
This drink format produces less gastric acids. For its part, it should be consumed alone since, in this way, it calms the possible symptoms of acidity.
It must be white rice and be well cooked, that is, not al dente. The set of starches that compose it, makes it easy to digest. In addition, its fibers act as a stomach protector.
They contain a high content of fiber and salts and minerals such as potassium, sodium, chlorine and B vitamins that help moderate stomach discomfort. The ideal is to consume them cooked or grated.
It is recommended to consume it boiled, without shell or seeds. Among its qualities are fibers, which help speed up digestion and neutralize the effect of gastric juices.
No shell or threads. The more ripe and sweet, the better it is digested than if it were green. For its part, in addition to being rich in fiber and potassium, it contains alkalizing characteristics that generates the neutralization of acids.
It should be as lean as possible; it is key since it does not contain fat, one of the factors that enhance the burning sensation. It can be consumed alone or with meals.
Its components and the fact that it does not contain fat, help protect the stomach from gastric juices, and neutralize the burning sensation. It is suggested to consume it boiled so that its properties are preserved.
Like rice, it contains a large amount of starches and fibers that, in addition to protecting the stomach, are easy to digest. It is recommended to consume them well cooked and avoid adding extra food, such as a sauce.
In this sense, the experts consulted encourage eating between four and six meals a day, avoiding prolonged fasting. They also emphasize moderating portion sizes to avoid overindulging, chewing well, and eating slowly without stress or distractions.