Heal thy Heartburn
My mother’s Cuban cooking, although delicious, could have caused acid reflux in a giraffe. Common dishes included braised pork cooked in lard with mojo de ajo (a garlic and lemon sauce) and black beans and rice in portions that made supersize look wimpy. For me, heartburn was simply what happened whenever I ate.
If you are suffering from heartburn, as I note in my new book, The Acid Reflux Solution: A Cookbook and Lifestyle Guide for Healing Heartburn Naturally (Ten Speed Press), you’re not alone. In the United States, more than 50 million Americans complain of acid reflux. That’s onesixth of the entire population. Roughly 44 percent report suffering an attack at least once a week. Of those, 7.5 percent—or more than 23 million people—experience heartburn daily.
Acid reflux is caused when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the circular muscle that acts as a gate between your esophagus and your stomach, loosens too easily or does not maintain its tone, so that the caustic gastric acid escapes into your esophagus. Only some foods actually cause the LES to relax, namely mint and anything containing mint oil, chocolate, saturated fat, processed meats, deep-fried foods, carbonated beverages, caffeine, coffee (caffeinated or not) and alcohol. Various studies have proven that some of these foods, like chocolate, mint and caffeine, chemically cause the LES to loosen, triggering acid reflux. Other foods, ones that are greasy or high in fat, slow digestion, delaying the passage of food in the gastrointestinal tract. Things back up higher on the line and precipitate a buildup of pressure on the LES, which can loosen it and initiate acid reflux.