Tackling Tailgating Heartburn
Northwestern Medicine expert explains causes and remedies for heartburn
Every Sunday, millions of Americans turn their attention to the football field to watch their favorite team. Whether tailgating, inside the stadium, or watching at home, most football fans will likely indulge in typical game day snacks, including pizza, wings, salsa and beer, all of which are known triggers for heartburn. Affecting some 40 to 60 million Americans annually, heartburn does not typically indicate a serious condition, but often times can be extremely uncomfortable. Northwestern Medicine® experts offer their tips for tackling heartburn so that fans can enjoy the game without discomfort.
“Heartburn occurs when acid from the stomach refluxes into the esophagus, causing irritation,” said Peter Kahrilas, MD, gastroenterologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and professor in medicine-gastroenterology and hepatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “This happens when the lower esophageal opening is not able to block stomach contents and is overwhelmed by gastric acid that backs up into the esophagus.”
Known triggers for heartburn include onions, chocolate, alcoholic beverages, caffeinated and carbonated drinks, fatty or fried foods, garlic, spicy foods, mint flavorings and tomato-based foods, like spaghetti sauce, salsa, chili and pizza.
“Most of the foods that we associate with tailgating or watching football are known to cause heartburn, which can make game day uncomfortable if you’re not careful,” said Kahrilas. “Recognizing those foods and altering your diet is the best method of prevention. If you know you’re prone to heartburn, instead of grabbing a slice of pizza, try an alternative such as a deli sandwich or other foods that you know do not trigger your symptoms.”
Kahrilas offers the following tips for beating heartburn on game day: