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Chew Slowly to Prevent Heartburn

Nutrition News Flash

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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.
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About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

Member Comments

  • I had surgery last year because the valve between my esophagus and stomach never closed...resultin
    g in severe GERD and regurgitation from the time I was a small child. Now I MUST eat slowly because the food doesn't go down as easily. I find that I eat a lot less now that my meals take about 30 minutes. - 8/14/2013 10:04:25 AM
  • I use a timer for 20 min. and make sure I chew well. - 4/27/2013 1:07:44 PM
  • Thanks I needed that. I am always told by my baby I eat my food too fast. - 4/27/2013 10:17:03 AM
  • Here's a place where being re-single is a positive! I dated a guy (who is now a good friend) who naturally eats very slowly. Despite talking nonstop during our first date (he is also shy and quiet at first) I finished my meal before he was halfway through his - I was mortified, I felt like a pig! Clearly it didn't bother him, but I soon made it a practice to keep pace with him at meals - and now I do eat more slowly and I enjoy my food more. I actually taste it on the way down! - 3/9/2013 12:39:32 PM
  • I tried eating with chopsticks instead of a fork a while back. That got me to slow down real fast. I now know how to use a chopstick too! - 11/15/2011 5:07:05 PM
  • SHONADOG
    I am a slow eater already. Now if I could just get my husband to slow down. He is 1 of 5 siblings and to this day they all eat like the food is not going to be there tomorrow. When we go to his parents for dinner I'm still eating and they are clearing the table off and moving on to dessert. Drives me crazy.

    Mary - 4/17/2011 12:21:23 PM
  • OK...I get this....I know this is important. I just have to somehow make it part of who I am....I've used the eating slowly as a goal, but I keep forgetting. So, maybe the next step is an affirmation. I'll write it out, carry the paper with me. Try better to track it every day at every meal. Wish me luck! - 6/17/2010 8:36:50 PM
  • DMVARNER
    Very helpful article. It would be nice for some hints/help at remembering to eat slowly. I do well for a few meals and then I forget or I am in a hurry and just do not think about chewing slowly/taking my time. - 2/18/2009 3:11:29 PM
  • Last December I was experiencing the effects of GERDS in the worst way and did not have meds to treat it. I started eating smaller portions, more frequently and chewing food more slowly. Besides less frequent bouts with GERDS, I lost several pounds without exercising!!! This does work!!! - 12/23/2008 11:55:08 AM
  • Since starting SP in April, I have not had one episode of heartburn or reflux. Had it all the time previously. - 12/21/2008 8:53:32 PM
  • Helpful article. - 1/24/2008 10:01:28 AM

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