Thursday, July 22, 2010

The other heartburn

Yet another reason to give up junk. What you think is heartburn can lead to a far more serious condition, GERD

It is a feeling most foodies are familiar with. You binge on deep fried stuff, spicy curries and lots of booze, only to get that unbearable burning sensation in your chest hours later. The nausea and discomfort is enough to put you off food for the next few days. While you may blame acidity for the symptoms that can be cured by a few home-made concoctions, at an extreme level they can lead to a far more serious condition called the Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) or acid reflux, a major digestive disorder.
To understand GERD, here's a bit of a biology lesson. The food you eat goes to the stomach through a tube called the esophagus, and from there to the duodenum and intestines. The Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) is the junction or gate between the esophagus and stomach. In GERD, the LES loosens and the liquid content of the stomach regurgitates to the esophagus. This liquid usually contains acid, hydrochloric acid pepsin (an enzyme) and bile, each of which can injure the esophagus.
    GERD is a chronic condition and even when the esophagus has healed, the injury can return causing severe discomfort and complications.
It's not exactly clear why it happens though there can be several reasons. Recurrent vomiting, increased abdominal pressure due to obesity, hiatal hernia, smoking and most importantly reduced LES pressure gives rise to GERD. But over and above, faulty eating habits are the main culprit. Reflux symptoms worsen if you consume too much citrus fruits, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, colas, red meat, fatty and fried foods, garlic and onions, spices and tomato based foods such as spaghetti sauce, salsa and pizza.
While GERD, per se, is not a very common condition, it often manifests in its earliest symptoms - acidity. To counter it, ensure that your diet has enough alkaline food that acts as a foil. The balance between acid and alkaline is essential as it acts as a buffer leading to better absorption of food. But how does one differentiate? Here's a quick checklist:
Acidic foods: Bread, noodles, ragi,
naachni, poha, rava, tuvar dal, soya beans, butter, palak, canned food, dry coconut, tea, coffee, alcohol,
confectionary, sugar, etc.
Alkaline food: Potato, fresh figs, as
paragus, leek, radish, beans, celery,
wheat grass, cucumber, grape fruit,
artichoke, onion, etc.
Modify your lifestyle
» Avoid tight-fighting clothes after a meal or tightening trouser belts. It
exerts pressure on the intestines » Avoid vigorous activity soon after eating » Avoid cigarettes and alcohol » Avoid being on empty stomach or unhealthy snacking » Try to maintain ideal weight » Have light meals at night » Chew properly and eat slowly » Eat in a calm and stress free environment » Avoid irregular and hurried meals and those with high PH acid » Drink plenty of water » Maintain upright position during and at least 45 minutes after eating each meal to enhance digestion.

Through dietary means
» Avoid large fat-content meal especially before retiring to bed » Avoid high sugar content because fermentation of sugar inside the stomach produces more gas. It has a hostile effect on the stomach lining, stimulates acid and weakens LES » The volatile oil in peppermint and spearmint weakens esophageal sphincter, so avoid having too much chewing gums and mouth freshners » Watch your chocolate and caffeine consumption »Unlike popular perception, milk is not a cure for heartburn; it only neutralises its effect. Remember, milk is acidic/ » Avoid confectionery items, artificial sweeteners, processed food.

Here is a quick alkaline recipe that can help suppress GERD...
ANTI REFLUX-FUSION SOUP Ingredients: 1 cup sliced zucchini, 1/2 cup bottle gourd, 1 medium onion, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 3-4 basil leaves, 2 tbsp fresh kokum syrup, one-inch piece of ginger, salt to taste. 1 tbsp onion, carrot, spring onion leaves.
Cube the vegetables and pour seven cups of water and pressure cook it. Keep aside. In a pan, add all the vegetables with stock and cook for at least 20 minutes. Add salt and kokum syrup. Garnish and consume lukewarm.
» 'Alfa alfa' juice can help because of high alkalinity. As can potato juice. Shred a little potato in water, let it sit overnight and then drink it.