A High-Fiber Diet Could Calm Your Heartburn

It's been shown that eating a diet high in fiber can help prevent or relieve constipation, as well as lower your risk for diabetes, heart disease and possibly colon cancer. Now, new research is showing that high-fiber foods can also calm the flames of heartburn. The results of a study of 371 employees of the Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center published in the gastroenterology journal Gut found that participants who ate a lot of fatty, high-cholesterol foods had more episodes of heartburn than those who followed a diet high in fiber. In fact, study participants who ate a diet rich in fiber were 20 percent less likely to have heartburn flare-ups than their study counterparts eating diets low in fiber-rich foods. Inflammation and erosion of the esophagus also occurred more frequently in those who ate more fat and protein.

According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 50 million Americans experience heartburn-a burning pain in the chest that usually occurs after eating-at least once a month. And surveys by the National Heartburn Alliance show that 64 percent of heartburn sufferers aren't aware that the problem has been linked to such serious heath complications as asthma, chronic cough and, in rare cases, cancer if left untreated.

When to See Your Doctor

If you have heartburn that occurs more than twice a week or that does not respond to over-the-counter remedies, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms. Your doctor will be able to determine if your heartburn has progressed to the more serious ailment, gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, which may require prescription medication to relieve.

High-Fiber Foods to Add to Your Diet

Experts say that women should aim for between 21 and 25 grams of fiber in their diet per day; men should try for between 30 and 38 grams per day. And don't worry, there are a variety of high-fiber foods to choose from, so you'll never feel food deprived.

  • Fruits, including raspberries; pears, with skin; strawberries; bananas; raisins
  • Whole-wheat grains, cereal and pasta, such as whole-wheat spaghetti and whole-wheat or multigrain bread; barley; bran flakes; oatmeal; brown rice
  • Legumes, nuts and seeds, including split peas; lentils; black beans; sunflower seed kernels; almonds, pecans
  • Vegetables, especially artichoke; peas; broccoli; sweet corn; Brussels sprouts; potato; carrots