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9 Natural Ways To Extinguish Heartburn

You may know that I’m busy writing away in the wee hours of the morning (in fact, I just got the go-ahead from my publisher, Kensington, to reveal the title of my first novel! Too fun.). As a result, however, I’ve been drinking just a *tad* more coffee than usual.

Can you say: heartburn?

Which, of course, has provided the inspiration for this post.

Do you suffer heartburn? Technically called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), it’s that burning feeling in the center of your chest caused by a backwards flow of stomach acid into your esophagus. Yes, it’s not nice, and it really freaking hurts sometimes. So what can you do to extinguish the fire of heartburn?

There are medications, of course, both prescription and over-the-counter options. But what about non-pharmaceutical remedies?

Here are nine drug-free ways to go:

1. Don’t eat late at night.

And don’t lie down for a nap right after eating, either. Filling your stomach right before lying down worsens that backwards flow of stomach acid. Your stomach needs a chance to empty first.

2. Avoid spicy foods.

Chili peppers, hot sauces, garlic, onions, wasabi….all of these worsen heartburn.

3. Sleep on an incline.

This is simply a gravitational thing. If you properly elevate the head of your bed (with blocks under the upper end of your bedframe–not just propping yourself up with a bunch of pillows) you’ll minimize the amount of backwards flow of acid.

4. Avoid acidic foods.

Tomatoes (and any tomato-based foods like pasta sauce) and citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit, lemon) are the big culprits here, as well as vinegar in salad dressings.

5. Quit smoking.

There’s a sphincter muscle at the base of your esophagus that helps to prevent that backwards flow of stomach acid into your esophagus. Tobacco lowers the tone of that muscle, making it looser, and allowing that acid into the place where it shouldn’t be.

6. Eat smaller, more frequent meals.

Big meals put more pressure on your stomach (and the lower esophageal sphincter I was just talking about), making reflux much more likely. Eating smaller meals frequently spaced through the day can reduce reflux (and may also help that waistline, too).

7. Avoid fatty foods.

Deep-fried foods and foods high in saturated fat tend to hang around in the stomach longer. And they also relax the lower esophageal sphincter muscle (sensing a trend, here?). Plus, they will, of course, make you chubbier. And a heavier weight, overall, is a contributing factor for reflux and heartburn.

8. Avoid certain beverages.

Yes, this is where I’m talking about coffee. My beloved coffee. Other liquid culprits? Acidic juices (like OJ) and soda, which is a particular heartburn demon: sugary, acidic, and gassy.

9. Embrace the slow food movement.

Yes, we’re all busy. But all that rushing around, grabbing food on the go, and gobbling it down, is a recipe for poor digestion and heartburn. Slow down. Enjoy your food and eat slowly. And read this about mindful eating.

(Curious about all this writing and novel talk from me? Check out my personal blog. Or find me on my Facebook Page.)

Wicked Healthy: 7 Vices That Are Good For You

It’s this little thing I do: I like “collecting” things that, traditionally, have been considered bad for you…but turn out to be healthy. Girl’s gotta have a hobby!

Anyway. Here’s my lovely little roundup of vices you should be indulging in.

1.Shopping. Oh yes, it’s true. In a recent study, seniors who shopped every day had mortality rates 27 percent lower than their peers who rarely or never shopped. Every. Day. I’m sending this link to my husband as we speak.

2. Chocolate. Once considered the devil, chocolate turns out to be packed with antioxidants, flavonoids and phytonutrients. Dark chocolate is best. And just a square or two, please. Not a family-sized bar in one sitting.

3. Fat. Here’s another little demon we’ve become enlightened about. We know, now, that not all fats are bad–just the saturated stuff and the trans-fat nasties. Steer clear of those (fried food, etc) and instead savor olive oil, avocadoes and nuts, and benefit from body-lovin’ monounsaturated & polyunsaturated fats (which improve your cholesterol profile, help prevent heart disease and cancer and a multitude of other health benefits).

4.The Sun. Personally, I have to admit to a certain sun terror. Wrinkles, age spots, and cancer? No thank you. Truth is, a little sun can do wonders for your mood, and for your vitamin D levels. You don’t have to be terrified of the sun. Go out every once in a while for a few minutes, without (gasp) sunblock, and enjoy the warmth on your skin. After all, we’re creatures of the earth; what’s more natural than a dash of sunlight?

5.Sleep. For those Type As among us, is there anything lazier than sleeping? Sleep when you’re dead, surely. I mean, teenagers sleep all day long and look at them. Useless! (Kidding. I love teenagers). Many of us feel guilty sleeping in, or going to bed early. Truth be told, most of us don’t get enough shut-eye. And we’re suffering for it. Inadequate sleep has been linked to depression, heart disease, and obesity. Yikes! Nighty-night.

6.The Spa. Pampering yourself at the spa: another guilty pleasure? Nope. That massage appointment? That dip in a mineral bath? That pedi with reflexology? More than just preening, more than just vanity and self-indulgence. There’s growing evidence that the spa is good for you. Pinch me.

7. Coffee. Feeling badly because you can’t get through your day without a trip (or two) to Starbucks? Fret no more. Evidence is building in favor of coffee. In moderation, not only is it not a vice, it looks like it’s actually healthy for you.

So there you go. Permission granted.

And just when you thought achieving a healthy lifestyle would be no fun.

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Coffee: Does Your Body Good?

Coffee has long been one of my favorite indulgences. Actually, let’s be honest. I can’t get through my day without visiting Starbucks. Even so…my sipping usually comes with a teeny bit of guilt.

Reasonable? Turns out, probably not. In fact, it looks like I just might be doing myself some good with my daily dose.

There’s a growing body of research showing a boatload of benefits to coffee. I’ve been sifting through the evidence lately, and here’s the roundup:

  • Coffee appears to be good for your brain. It decreases the risks of Parkinson’s and dementia, including Alzheimers.
  • It’s good for your cardiovascular health. Seems coffee decreases your risks of stroke and cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal rhythms of the heart).
  • Coffee helps prevent cancer. There’s evidence for prevention of the following types of cancer: bladder, breast, colorectal, endometrial, esophageal, liver, leukemia, pancreatic, prostate, oral cancers.

Prevention of dementia, strokes, and cancer? And all while enjoying my morning coffee? Me likey.

So what’s the deal? What makes coffee health food suddenly? The experts point to the multitude of phytochemicals in brewed coffee. Certainly there are plenty of antioxidants: polyphenols, flavonoids, and chlorogenic acid. Researchers have also isolated diterpenes in coffee, compounds known to be anticarcinogenic. What about the caffeine itself? More study is needed, but it looks like caffeine is one of the components that helps with brain health. For the other health benefits, it seems decaf might do the same job as full-caff versions.

What are the negatives? Well, if you overcaffeinate (more than 4 cups a day) your bone density can suffer. Coffee also increases heartburn, and worsens stomach conditions like ulcers. It also depends how you take your coffee: If you dump a whole lotta sugar in your cup, you’re going to be negating many of the health benefits. And if you’re pregnant? While studies suggest one cup a day is okay, more than that might increase your risk of miscarriage.

Bottom line: like so many things, don’t overdo it.

Vitamin Coffee? Drink up.

Dr. Kim Foster, MD. (photo credit: Tamea Burd Photography)

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