News & Events

No More Hot Sauce, Please!

Debbie Doehnert

Have you ever felt a burning pain in your chest after eating a large meal or spicy foods?  This pain is called heartburn and can be a symptom of a more severe problem – GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease) or simply known as acid-reflux. Apporximately 15 million Americans experience heartburn every day!  There are a lot of different causes of this problem and several ways to prevent the disease from becoming worse. The symptoms of acid-reflux are painful and bothersome if they are not controlled or treated properly. 

Acid-reflux is most common in older adults and obese patients but can happen to anyone. Adults most commonly experience heartburn, vomiting or trouble swallowing. GERD can be more difficult to detect in infants and children. Symptoms in children range from repeated vomiting, spitting up, coughing, heartburn, belching, burping or other breathing problems.

There is a small flap that separates the esophagus and the stomach that has two main functions. This flap helps to keep the food ingested in the stomach so it can be digested. It also prevents stomach acids from traveling upwards into the chest. Continually eating large portions, spicy dishes, fried meals or acidic foods can cause the flap to wear out. Over time, acids in the stomach will reflux or travel upwards into the esophagus causing heartburn or burning chest pains. Permanent damage can occur in the tissues that line the throat and esophagus if the problem continues without being treated.

There are several ways to relieve heartburn or acid-reflux and prevent it from happening in the future. Eating large meals or certain foods causes the stomach to produce more acids. This can be corrected by eating small meals more often instead of one large serving. Some foods to avoid include citrus fruit, tomatoes, fatty foods, coffee, tea, onions, peppermint, chocolate or spicy foods. Although it may be difficult to give up some of these foods, it will help to prevent most of the chest pain or discomfort. 

There are medications that can be taken to relax the flap above the stomach and keep the acids from coming up; other medications will cause the stomach to produce lower amounts of acid. Some of these medications are available over-the-counter, while others require a prescription. Whatever the solution may be, acid-reflux is a serious problem and should not be ignored.

For more information on prescription or over-the-counter medications to treat acid reflux, talk with your healthcare provider or pharmacist.

Debbie Doehnert is a Pharmacy Intern at the Flagstaff Pharmacy, Flagstaff Medical Center’s Outpatient Pharmacy.