Dr Ikechi Chijioke, a private physician, has warned Nigerians against eating large meals and fatty foods to avoid heartburn and heart-related illnesses. Chijioke gave the warning in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Abuja. He said eating between meals and late night meals could also cause heart burns. “Fatty foods, large portions and late-night meals are the top three triggers that affect many people with heartburn. “Eating large meals and fries right before bed time also increases heartburn,’’ he said.

He said the usual symptom of heartburn was the sudden burning sensation in the chest after such meals. Chijioke noted that the pain could be accompanied with sour taste at the back of the throat, or a feeling of food being stuck in the throat. The physician said a belly full of food stretches the stomach, causing one to feel “stuffed.”

He added that high-fat foods sit around the belly longer and could make the stomach produce more acid and an irritating digestive system. Chijioke said heartburn is a symptom created by acid reflux, which results in the diagnosis of gastro esophageal reflux disease. “Heartburn is felt when stomach acid flows back up into the food pipe also called the gullet, in which food moves from the mouth to the stomach,’’ he said.

However, Chijioke said specific triggers for heartburn differed from person to person; adding that it could be prevented by observing what triggered the symptoms.

He said the condition was not just about the food people eat, noting that how and when people exercise could be a contributory factor. According to him, a number of foods and drinks such as alcohol, spicy foods, citrus fruits and caffeinated drinks, among others, can trigger the condition. He said the preventive measures are “don’t over eat rather eat five or six small meals each day, instead of several large meals. “Don’t eat before bed time let the food digest two hours before lying down, lying down makes digestion difficult and increases the possibility of having heartburn,’’ Chijioke said.

He said people react differently to specific food groups and the body chemistry could be a determining factor. Chijioke, however, advised the use of journals to track what foods worsens ones symptoms, such as the time you ate, type of food eaten and any activity that worsened or made the heartburn better. He said overtime, the journal could help change in lifestyle and behaviour and as such help prevent or improve heartburn symptoms.

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