Print This Page SparkPeople

Chew Slowly to Prevent Heartburn

Nutrition News Flash
  -- By Liza Barnes, Health Educator
Heartburn may feel like your heart is on fire, but what’s “burning” is actually your esophagus. Acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), occurs when the stomach acids enter the esophagus, causing pain and burning sensations. Left untreated, GERD can lead to serious medical consequences, including narrowing of the esophagus, bleeding, or even a condition called Barrett’s esophagus, which increases your risk of developing esophageal cancer.

But experts have found a simple way to prevent GERD in the first place: Eat more slowly. Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston fed 690-calorie meals to 10 healthy volunteers, instructing them to finish the meal in either five or 30 minutes on alternating days. Participants were monitored for two hours after finishing their meals. Those who took 30 minutes to eat experienced fewer episodes of acid reflux or GERD compared to subject who finished eating in five minutes.

Action Sparked
Most people need to work on slowing down many areas of their lives, and mealtime is a perfect place to start. Besides aiding your digestion, eating your meals slowly can help your waistline too, by giving your stomach a chance to communicate to your brain that it’s full. Time yourself, just to see how long it takes you to eat an average meal. Try to take a full 20-30 minutes (you might have to build up to this slowly) to finish your food. If you are experiencing heartburn or discomfort after meals on a regular basis, see your doctor, before GERD causes irreversible damage.