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Avoiding Sugar May Help Heartburn

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Q. I was on omeprazole for gastroesophageal reflux for several years until I saw a PBS program on heartburn and acid reflux problems. The expert said the worst culprit for heartburn is refined sugar!

Not one doctor I had ever seen mentioned avoiding refined sugar. I had eliminated all other foods that are supposed to be a problem such as caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods.

The day after this TV program more than a year ago, I stopped eating refined sugar and stopped taking the medicine. I'm very strict now with my diet and get any sugar I want just from eating fruit. I have not had to take the medicine since then.

A. Avoiding refined carbohydrates does seem to ease reflux (Digestive Diseases and Sciences, Aug. 2006).

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11 Comments

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Sugar doesn't bring on heartburn for me but eggs and milk products do. Things that my body doesn't like and is allergic to causes me problems.

Both my husband and I had many GI issues and took Prilosec daily. After going on a strict diet similar to a diabete's diet our reflux disease vanished, no more pills. We, too eat no sugar or refined products.

I had heartburn daily for 20+ years. I took so many Tums I had a kidney stone once. My doctor assumed fats were the culprit and they were about to "start looking at" my gall bladder. Right around that time, I went on Atkins to lose a few pounds. Within 3 days, the heartburn disappeared. It was totally unexpected. Now I know If I eat bread, pasta, sugar, sugared drinks or juices, etc., I get horrible heartburn again, and it takes a day or two without them to abate.

Keeping it to proteins, veggies and salads, and a reasonable amount of fruits . . NO heartburn. Interestingly, I love spicy foods and they have no effect. Hot peppers; no problem. Some toast, cereal or pasta . .. let alone a danish or donut. . . heartburn is back. It's as simple as that.

When a doctor says to avoid spicy foods, exactly what spices are meant?
1)hot spices such as black and red pepper, chili powder, curry powder, etc.
2)aromatic spices - cinnamon , cloves, nutmeg and the like
3)herbs such as oregano, basil,Thyme
4)highly flavored foods like onions,garlic, green peppers, jalapenos

The doctors I have talked to don't seem to have specific information on exactly what "spicy foods" to cut out.

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: THE DOCTOR MAY MEAN TRY CUTTING FOODS YOU CONSIDER SPICY AND SEE IF IT HELPS.

My daughter (3 years old) had horrible acid reflux which caused her to cough non-stop all day, every day, for over a year, and sometimes even vomit during the night. After way too many doctor appointments, tests, and meds that didn't work, we finally removed dairy, gluten, tomatoes, caffeine, and refined sugars from her diet completely. As we reintroduced each item (one per week) we came to realize it was the refined sugar that was the culprit! She hasn't coughed or complained of a stomach ache once since we removed it from her diet (except on her birthday when she got ahold of some candy! She coughed for a few hours, then was back to feeling great!).

I have had the same problem, I love spicy food and for a while I did have acid reflux problems and then I took a purple pill, which I can't remember the name of but it wasn't Prilosec, it was something else, anyway, I only took it for two weeks and then I never had any acid reflux again after that and I was still able to have plenty of spicy foods, but in the last few weeks, I have been eating a lot of chocolate, and now I am having heartburn all the time. So here is my question, if sugar is supposed to be neutral, why does it cause acid reflux?

I knew a guy with severe Crohn's disease. He had surgery to remove a large part of his intestine. Dr. told him to eat a bland diet. He went to an alternate healer who told him to eat Cayenne pepper on and IN everything, like fruit juice. His problems all abated and he gained weight back. Cayenne and other capsaicins can stimulate blood circulation in the bowels and be helpful to digestion.

I don't as a rule suffer from heartburn or reflux but I recently ate way too many brownies and I experienced the worst acid reflux EVER. Burned my esophagus horribly and felt miserable for two days. My daughter told me about the connection with sugar, but I think chocolate has some strong properties that can cause severe indigestion too, not to mention all the fat and sugar in those brownies.

I have been on Atkins for over a year. My heartburn disappeared for about 8 months but recently has come back and I have no idea why. I have been controlling it with generic Pepcid AC.

Aciphex for over a year but really want to get off any one have any luck with it? Any long term side effects from being on it besides the damage to pocketbook?

I don't believe the AMA can speak against sugar because of the sugar lobby. Junk food is the culprit for reflux but limiting the quantity works for most of us. Look for a cough as the first indication, then a sour taste in the mouth. By the time you get GERD or a hiatal hernia, you will need much time to heal. Be patient. Be at peace with yourself and others. Some things you just can't change.

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