How to Avoid Holiday Heartburn | News | Loyola Medicine
Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Loyola gastroenterologist shares tips on how to avoid holiday heartburn

MAYWOOD, Ill. – President Obama’s recent diagnosis of acid reflux is prompting wide awareness of an ailment that is especially prevalent at this time of year. Fortunately, acid reflux and its complications can be avoided, as a Loyola gastroenterologist explains.

 “The rich party foods, alcoholic beverages, stress, travel schedules and late nights all contribute to gastric imbalance that can present as acid reflux disease,” says Mukund Venu, MD, of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “Signs of acid reflux disease include a burning sensation in your chest and/or throat, a persistent cough, burping and bloating.” 

Venu, assistant professor of Gastroenterology at Stritch, says triggers for acid reflux disease include holiday favorites such as high-fat foods, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate and citric acid. Acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when acid located in the stomach enters the esophagus.

“Normally, a muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter tightens after food enters but if it opens too often or does not close all the way, acid moves from the stomach up the throat causing extreme discomfort,” Venu says. “Obesity is a well-documented factor in acid reflux disease.”

Lifestyle changes are the first line of defense. “Do not lie down until at least three hours after you eat,” he advises. “Try sleeping at a 45-degree angle to keep acid in the stomach.”

Other suggestions to maintain good digestive health include avoiding caffeine and fatty foods, maintaining a regular eating and sleeping cycle as well as preventing extreme weight fluctuation.

“If you suffer from persistent heartburn, see a board certified gastroenterologist and have an upper endoscopic exam performed,” says Venu, who specializes in GERD at Loyola University Medical Center and regularly supervises gastroenterology research trials. “If lifestyle changes do not work, your gastroenterologist will likely prescribe a medication known as proton pump inhibitors once a day, usually before breakfast.” A proton pump inhibitor is a liquid or pill that reduces the production of acid in the stomach.

“If acid reflux is left untreated, esophageal cancer or a disease called Barrett’s Esophagus can occur,” he warns. “With a few lifestyle modifications, most people find relief.”

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 94 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 133,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.