By Dr. Peter Kadile

Doc, I’ve been having a lot of heartburn lately. I don’t want to take medication for it, what can I do?
-Matthew, La Quinta

Matthew, heartburn is usually a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The discomfort of reflux is caused by the upward backflow of stomach acid, bile, ingested liquids and foods into the esophagus. GERD symptoms commonly manifest as a burning type pain or discomfort that moves up from your stomach to the middle of your chest. The pain can also move into your throat. Other symptoms can be nausea after eating, frequent belching or burping, and bloating. Constantly having to clear your throat or persistent coughing can also be due to GERD.

While there are effective over the counter medications out there, they should only be for short term use only. Long term use of proton pump inhibitor medications, such as, Prilosec, Prevacid, Nexium, Protonix, can adversely affect the stomach’s absorption of vitamins and minerals. Anemia and increased risk of bone fractures may result from long term use of these medications. Along with another class of medications called H2 blockers (Tagamet, Zantac, Pepcid), chronic long term use of these heartburn or reflux meds interferes with the stomach’s ability to properly absorb nutrients. Just think, the stomach needs an acid environment to break down proteins for digestion.

Lifestyle modifications are an important component in treating GERD and can decrease dependence on medications that have potential adverse side effects.
1. Maintain a reasonable weight
2. Avoid eating tomatoes, garlic, and onions. Also refrain from chocolate, peppermint, citrus fruits and fatty or oily foods
3. Avoid coffee, tea alcohol and soft drinks
4. Eat smaller meals more frequently instead of three large meals a day. Do not lie down after meals.
5. Do not eat for at least 2-3 hours before bedtime. Elevate the head of the bed about 6 inches.( It’s usually better to elevate the head of the bed instead of just laying on an extra pillow)
6. Get plenty of exercise and rest.
7. Do not smoke.
8. Try not to take any aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naprosyn (Aleve).

Dr. K., is it okay to reuse the plastic water bottles used for bottled water or soda?
-Tracy, Palm Springs

Tracy, one time re-use of a plastic water bottle after rinsing it out with soap and water should be okay, but I would throw it away after that. Repeated usage of these types of bottles, which can get damaged from repeated washings, increases the chance that chemicals will leak out of the plastic and into the liquid.

You should also never drink from a plastic water bottle that you left in the car in the summer heat. The heat can melt the plastic and the chemicals used to make the bottle could leach into the liquid and introduce toxins into your system.