Monday, December 20, 2010

Caffeine, Alcohol and Peppermints, Oh My!

As if the cough last week weren't enough, are you now plagued with with heartburn? Yes, in our commercial-literate world, we may call it GERD (Gastro-Esophageal-Reflux Disease), but heartburn is still a great descriptor. December is often a very tough month for health! We are fully into cough and cold season, and at the same time, we are frantically running around in crowded public areas...touching the same escalator handrail, doors, etc. as the sneezing, coughing folks ahead of us. In addition, we are meeting old friends for our annual "catch up" coffee, drinks or meals, and burning the candle at both ends.

Caffeine, alcohol, and peppermints (did someone say candy canes?) abound, and ALL THREE of these have one common side effect in the body- they loosen the sphincter between the esophagus (food tube) and stomach that is supposed to function to keep acid down south in the stomach. Instead, these substances allow it to relax, and acid can slosh back up into the esophagus, and voila- HEARTBURN FOR THE HOLIDAYS!

What to do? Okay, first things first, stop the burn by popping a few antacid tablets. Not enough relief? Add in an OTC acid relief product like cimetidine (Tagamet) or ranitidine (Zantac) or even the next level up of acid blockers such as omeprazole (Prilosec). Still no relief? Time to see your doctor! Of course, it SHOULD go without saying that you need to STOP THE OFFENDING CAUSE (yes, the coffee, drinks and mints) if your symptoms are persisting beyond the occasional event!

I'd be remiss if I didn't add NICOTINE to the the list of irritants for GERD, by the way, so here is my chance to beg you to make QUITTING SMOKING your number one New Year's Resolution!

BOTTOM LINE: Caffeine, alcohol, peppermints and nicotine all cause HEARTBURN- watch out for the symptoms and recognize the cause!

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