How to Halt Your Hearburn!

Recently a student in a college nutrition class I teach raised her hand to contribute to a discussion on heartburn.  She indicated that her doctor told her to drink whole milk to help her heartburn.  She stressed that the doctor noted it HAD to be whole milk.  Since she was not interested in drinking whole milk, this recommendation was not followed through on by the student.  The recommendation was neither realistic for her, and probably not really the best advice to take anyway with regard to managing heartburn.

You know if you have suffered from heartburn.  You may actually have a burning sensation in either your chest, mouth, or both areas.  You may have a constant sore throat.  You may even bring up vomit.

Common factors contributing to heartburn include: pregnancy, smoking, certain medications, obesity, and alcohol.

Food Factors.  Certain foods are known to aggravate heartburn.  Consider the following list of foods and evaluate if your symptoms are worse when you eat these foods.

  • Citrus fruits (limes, lemons, oranges, grapefruit)
  • Spicy foods
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeinated food (coffee, soda pop, tea)
  • High fat foods (salad dressing, oil, butter, margarine, fried foods, rich desserts)
  • Raw onions and garlic
  • Tomato based foods
  • Peppermint or spearmint oils (sometimes recommended for irritable bowel syndrome)

Lifestyle Factors.  By manipulating your daily habits, you can help to decrease your heartburn symptoms.

  • Make sure you eat a low fat diet
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Mange your weight and lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Avoid overly large meals-instead eat smaller meals more frequently.
  • If necessary, prop your head up with multiple pillows at night.  This makes it a bit more difficult for the acid to back up into your esophagus.
  • Drink liquids between meals, instead of with your meals.
  • Wear loose clothes.
  • Wait several hours to lie down after a larger meal.

Taking these first steps to halting heartburn can be very effective.  You can always consult with a dietitian as well.  If your symptoms persist even after diet and lifestyle adjustments, you should see your physician for medical management of your problem.


The Meatless “Revolution”: A Health Savvy Trend

I just heard the term “meatless revolution” coined on an evening news program.  Being a dietitian who is both professionally and personally a big fan of good nutrient dense carbohydrates-white potatoes, sweet potatoes, lentils, fruits, and vegetables- I am ecstatic to hear this is becoming a mainstream trend.  Apparently, US meat consumption has declined 30%, so my hope is this trend continues as it is good for our health and good for the planet.  Dietitians have been promoting this concept for decades.  The USDA plate reinforces this eating “revolution” as well.  So why should we cut down on meat consumption?  For dietitians, the answers are obvious:  this decreases total fat, saturated fat, and allows for calories to come from other food sources such has complex carbs which provide specific nutrients to the diet that would be lacking in a heavy meat diet.  Eating less meat is also a good way to decrease inflammation and cancer risk in some people.  Eating and growing more plant-based foods also consumes less energy and pollutes the environment less.  For every pound of bread made, one pound of grain is needed.  But for every pound of beef weight, eight pounds of grain are needed.  And, let’s not forget that cows pollute with poop.  It has to go somewhere, and often ends up contaminating our water and soil.

To embrace this so-called meatless revolution, start with:

  • Having a meatless meal a few times per week.  Try a lentil soup with whole grain bread or a vegetable topping pizza every Friday.
  • Making a conscious decision to decrease your animal protein servings to the size of a deck of cards; this is the portion size you should be eating, but many are eating 2-3 times that amount.
  • Substituting plant-based protein for meat options.  Try peanut butter in place of cold cuts on whole wheat bread for a hearty sandwich or lentils and beans in soups and stews to replace some of the meat the recipe calls for.

How do you downsize your meat?


2nd Time Around, Mrs. Obama: High Hopes to “Impact the Quality of Food at the Grocery Store”

I have politics on my mind.  And, I am a dietitian/nutritionist (which you probably already know).   I watched both the Republican Convention and Democratic Convention.  As I reflected on some of the speeches, I thought I would look into what Michelle Obama would focus on if she becomes the First Lady for a second term.  In her first four years in the White House, she took on the noble cause of childhood obesity.  I figured she would opt for something pertaining to my field once again, and apparently this is the case.  She indicates she would focus on impacting the “quality” of food at the grocery store.  This is further clarified to mean she would focus on decreasing the fat, sugar, and sodium content of food found in our grocery stores across the United States.

This is an interesting idea.  How would this actually happen?  Will the government start regulating all companies to comply with a lesser amount of fat, sodium, and sugar in our food supply available to Americans?  We are a global economy, will imported foods be banned at large and small grocery stores if they do not comply with the fat, sodium, and sugar guidelines which will need to be implemented?

This also begs the obvious questions regarding access to less healthy foods.  Will the government ration or block our access to these foods?  Do you want to have these foods banned by the government, or do you want to make your own choices about what you eat?

I am not sure Mrs. Obama has the expertise to take on this challenge and this sounds like a logistical nightmare.  Would I be thrilled if Americans decreased fat, sugar, and sodium in their diet, well of course!  But what of education to learn to make the right choices?  I would like to see more energy focused in that arena rather than making more rules about what to eat.  In order to both implement and sustain a healthy dietary pattern, it starts with understanding what to eat and what eating patterns constitute a healthy diet.  I vote for more nutrition education and freedom to make one’s own food selection-hey, even I need a chocolate bar occasionally.  And ironically, what’s in a dark chocolate bar is not all bad from a nutritional standpoint.

What do you think?  Should the government change the food selection available at the grocery store through more regulation?