Heartburn Sufferers Need
To Learn About Their Pain
By Adam Pasick

NEW YORK - You probably have no idea why that hot dog doesn't sit well in your stomach " and chances are, you look for the quick-fix when you feel pain.
Corbis Doctors say people use over-the-counter drugs to ease discomfort instead of changing eating habits
Sufferers of heartburn aren't aware of many of the causes of their uncomfortable condition, according to a new study, and many "are unlikely to be willing to modify their lifestyles because easy access to safe and effective [drug] therapy."
But there are numerous triggers for heartburn other than an extra-spicy order of pad thai, including alcohol consumption, smoking, pregnancy, stress, obesity and even reclining after a meal. And most heartburn sufferers surveyed for a study in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine were unaware that such behaviors can precipitate heartburn.
Heartburn occurs when gastric acid surges from the stomach to the esophagus because the muscle between them " known as the esophageal sphincter " relaxes. Sufferers commonly experience pain behind the breastbone, extending to the throat and neck. The condition is often caused by consumption of certain foods.
Different Bodies, Different Irritations
To see just how much people would burn for the foods they yearn for, traveled to a hot dog stand in midtown Manhattan.
New York City resident Nicole Williams, kielbasa in hand, said hot dogs don't give her any trouble but any kind of red sauce invariably gives her heartburn " not surprising, as tomatoes and other acidic fruits can aggravate the condition. Williams is cautious to avoid such foods. "I don't want any chemicals in my body that will cause heartburn," she said.
Hitting the hot dog stand might be a quick hunger fix, but it can hurt
For Tony Curbella, who we happened upon eating two dogs with onions and ketchup, consuming alcohol during meals is sure to trigger an episode of heartburn. But rather than avoiding the combination, he resorts to antacids to quell the fire.
With relief only a pill away, experts say that it may be difficult to convince many heartburn patients to cut back on certain foods, cigarettes or alcohol. But taking heartburn drugs, although usually safe, is not without risks, including allergic reactions and drug interactions.
The lure of heavily marketed heartburn drugs like Zantac and Pepcid " whose advertisements seem to tell people, "Hey, go ahead and get the enchilada!"" may obscure the fact that modifying diet and behaviors can be much more healthy than relying on a pharmaceutical cure, said Larry Sasich of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen.
"I'm amazed that people would pay the money and place themselves at risk " albeit one that's very small " when they may be able to just change their eating habits," he said.
Sasich added, "Most any physician would say the modification of dietary habits is the thing that should be tried first. If pepperoni pizza before bed gives you heartburn, maybe you should avoid it."