Why do high-fat foods trigger heartburn?
By Jessica Goldbogen Harlan for Live Right Live Well
“There’s no question that for a lot of people, if they eat very fatty foods, they’ll get a lot of symptoms, including heartburn,” says Dr. Stuart Jon Spechler, chief of gastroenterology at the Dallas VA Medical Center. The traditional explanation has been that fat delays emptying of the stomach, and that provides greater opportunity for acid and other irritants in the stomach to back up into the esophagus and cause heartburn, explains Spechler. There are also some older studies that suggest that fat may weaken the lower esophageal sphincter muscles, whose job is to prevent reflux; however, not all modern studies have confirmed this effect.
Newer studies suggest
that when it comes to heartburn, calorie content may actually be a bigger
factor than fat. “It’s not clear why this is the case,” notes Spechler. But one
thing’s for sure: If you want to avoid heartburn, it’s best to steer clear of
high-fat foods, high-calorie foods or both, and to avoid overeating in general.
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