|Brooklynites love their food, especially those go-to New York favorites such as pastrami, pork dumplings, pizza, and coffee. But these beloved foods could be responsible for creating pain and discomfort (and we’re not talking about feeling stuffed after eating an extra slice… or two… of pizza!).
Almost everyone has occasional heartburn – that feeling you get after a spicy or acidic meal that feels like a burning sensation in your chest or abdomen. “Normally, when food or liquid enters your stomach, a band of muscle closes off the esophagus,” explains Dr. Igor Brichkov, a thoracic surgeon at Maimonides. “However, if this muscle fails to close tightly enough, whatever was in your stomach can come back up into the esophagus, which is known as acid reflux.” This partly digested food is usually acidic and can irritate the esophagus, causing heartburn and other symptoms. “Although it mostly leads to some discomfort, repeated incidences of acid reflux can cause constant irritation and can lead to scarring, difficulty swallowing and even esophageal cancer,” notes Dr. Brichkov.
“While it varies from person to person, consuming spicy, fatty and acidic foods, as well as alcohol and caffeine can trigger heartburn,” explains Heidi Pinsky, Chief Nutritionist at the Maimonides Cancer Center. That large piece of pizza and bottle of beer you plan to have for dinner might be the cause of some serious discomfort. Combine the high acidity of tomatoes, the alcohol content in the beer, and the flavorful spices that make the pizza so delicious and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
The good news is that basic changes in lifestyle and diet can be effective in stopping heartburn. Dr. Brichkov recommends a few simple tips to help combat heartburn:
- Avoid bending over or exercising just after eating.
- Avoid eating or lying down within 2-3 hours of bedtime. When you lay down with a full stomach, your stomach contents can press against the band that closes off the esophagus.
- Eat smaller meals. A full stomach puts extra pressure on the band of muscles which separate it from the esophagus, increasing the chance that food will reflux.
“Finding the foods that trigger your specific heartburn is also important,” notes Pinsky. While there are some common food types, each person reacts differently. Instead of picking up a snack at the diner, Becker suggests making the following recipe with heartburn-friendly ingredients. Hummus is a relatively low-fat dish, and making it yourself allows you to limit the amount of added oils and fats. With its subtle taste and good nutritional value, it is an excellent option for people suffering from acid reflux.
This recipe is from the book In Dropping Acid: The Reflux Diet Cookbook & Cure authors Jamie Kaufman, MD, Jordan Stern, MD, and Marc Bauer
1 can (19 oz.) canned chickpeas (drained and washed twice)
1 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp. olive oil
¼ tsp. sesame oil
½ tsp. salt
1. Place the chickpeas in a food processor and add the chicken stock, olive oil, sesame oil, and salt.
2. Process until smooth.
3. Add chicken stock as needed.
4. Serve cold with toast points, oven-toasted corn chips, or small wedges of flatbread.