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Taking the burn out of heartburn

Jul. 29, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

"Doc, my heartburn is killing me," may be more on target than you know. A new study reveals that people with frequent heartburn, not just those suffering a severe problem with acid reflux called GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), are much more likely to develop throat cancer than folks who never have heartburn.

And problems with heartburn are spreading like wildfire, possibly because of increased obesity, diabetes and inactivity. A 2011 study of industrialized nations found that from 1997 to 2009, the number of folks who have heartburn at least once a week soared by 47 percent. So, here's what you can (and should) do to prevent heartburn before it gets the better of you.

1. Identify and avoid your heartburn triggers: Keep a food diary that tracks what you eat and when you get heartburn. One of the most common food triggers is fatty food. It causes your lower esophageal sphincter, the flap of tissue that keeps stomach acid in the stomach, to get lazy and loose, allowing acid into the esophagus. (Ouch!) Other frequent triggers: alcohol, citrus, chocolate, tomatoes and coffee.

2. Lose weight if you need to. Being overweight doubles your chance for heartburn. Losing 10 percent of your body weight can give heartburn the boot.

3. Exercise regularly. Physical activity helps your digestive system work better and promotes weight loss. So, get a pedometer and walk (a few steps more every day) until you're up to 10,000 steps daily. And go to Realage.com to enjoy our simple, effective and fun walking program.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com.

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