Chronic heartburn is a true health hazard

Chronic heartburn is pretty commonplace, so you might assume it’s just a harmless nuisance. But the fact is, left unchecked, ongoing reflux (technically known as gastro-esophageal reflux disease or GERD), can lead to some very serious — even deadly — conditions.

Take Barrett’s esophagus, for instance. It’s a potentially pre-cancerous condition that occurs at the bottom of your esophagus — and it’s a direct result of GERD.

But unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, one study recently discovered that GERD can raise risk of cancer in the throat, tonsils, and even the sinuses of older adults.

This latest study involved nearly 14,000 adults, age 66 or older, who were all affected with respiratory and neck cancers. Researchers compared their medical histories to age-matched subjects without cancer.

Ultimately, older people with GERD were more than twice as likely to receive a neck cancer diagnosis when compared to subjects without chronic reflux. The strongest link was between acid reflux and cancer of the larynx (your voice box). The weakest — but obviously still significant — link was to sinus cancer.

So how do you know if you’re at risk? I don’t imagine I have to tell you what heartburn feels like. But some other, less obvious symptoms of GERD include a sour taste in your mouth (from the leaking of stomach acid into your esophagus.) And even a chronic cough or need to clear your throat.

Not exactly the kind of thing that would spring most people into action. But in light of this recent finding, well… maybe it should.

The good news is, getting rid of GERD forever is absolutely possible. And it’s not even particularly complicated. The article reporting on this study offered a few basic tips for battling reflux — eating smaller and more frequent meals, elevating the head of your bed, losing weight, and stress relief.

These suggestions are all well and good. But there are a couple critically important pieces of advice that didn’t make the list.

Like this one: Avoid taking prescription or over-the-counter heartburn drugs at all costs.

Research has linked heartburn meds to bone loss, cancer, dementia, and a higher risk of death. I’ve written about the dangers of these drugs many times.

Another important point the article I read failed to make is that the content of your meals is every bit as important as their size. And I’m not just talking about pizza, nachos, spicy foods, or any of the other usual suspects behind reflux, either.

I’m also talking about milk, soy, eggs, wheat, peanuts/tree nuts, and shellfish. Because one or all of these common food allergens could be to blame for your GERD. And eliminating them might be all it takes to banish your chronic heartburn for good.

Believe it or not, one study found that an elimination diet led to complete improvement in 64 percent of GERD patients and significant improvement in 78 percent. And 94 percent of the study participants reported that they no longer had difficulty swallowing (one of the hallmark symptoms of severe cases of GERD).

Once you’ve eliminated any foods that you might be sensitive to, there’s one more simple step you can take to soothe chronic heartburn. Start following my A-List diet (if you haven’t already). I guarantee it’s the most delicious path to permanent (and totally drug-free) indigestion relief you’ll find.