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How to enjoy a summer BBQ without feeling the heat of heartburn


By Liz Connor
Sauce-laden ribs, juicy burgers and pitchers of sugary cocktails are some of the things we most look forward to tucking into when the sun starts shining – but if you’re susceptible to heartburn, a summer BBQ can quickly turn into a digestive nightmare.

It’s caused by acid reflux – when the acids that break down food in the stomach travel up towards the throat. It’s completely normal to experience heartburn from time to time, but if you’re noticing regular bouts, see your GP, as it could be a sign of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD).

Luckily, there are steps we can all take to make sure we feel our best at socially-distanced summer BBQs. Here, GP Dr Carol Cooper shares her advice…

Don’t overeat
With so much delicious food coming hot off the grill, it’s easy to lose track of how much you’re eating at a BBQ.

Dr Cooper says a simple trick for reducing heartburn is to stick to just one plate of food, and to avoid going in for second and third helpings.

“The tendency at barbecues is to eat lots, as we’re sat around enjoying the weather and not really keeping an eye how much we’re actually consuming. Reducing what you eat could be as simple as having a smaller plate and sticking to just one portion.”

Switch to leaner options
The types of food you eat at a BBQ can have a major impact on the intensity of your heartburn.

“If you’re a meat-eater, avoid fatty foods and opt for leaner cuts of meat like chicken and turkey breast instead,” advises Dr Cooper, who adds that removing the skin from chicken before BBQing can also help cut down on unnecessary fat. “I’d also recommend trying plant-based and vegetarian options this BBQ season too, as they can also help to reduce the likelihood of a reflux event.”

Reduce your alcohol intake

Another simple tip is to cut down on beer, wine and spirits. “Barbecues are great occasions and a time when many people enjoy having an alcoholic beverage with friends and family,” says Dr Cooper. “However, the hot weather can make us thirsty, which can lead to excessive intake of alcohol and carbonated drinks – both of which can spell bad news for your heartburn.”

As an alternative, Dr Cooper suggests sipping on plain old h2O between alcoholic drinks, or packing a cooler of herbal iced tea or fruit-infused water instead.

Cut down on smoking
Smoking cigarettes is not only bad for your lung health, but the nicotine in tobacco can have a similar effect to alcohol – relaxing the esophageal sphincter, which can allow acid to back up to the throat.

“Not only can smoking trigger heartburn, but it also means you’re likely to touch your face a lot, which isn’t advisable in the current health climate,” says Dr Cooper.

Know your triggers
The foods and drinks that bother you may be different than those that bother other people, which is why it’s important to know which BBQ staples are reflux triggers for you. “Everyone’s triggers are different, so keeping a diary of food and drink can help you identify yours,” says Dr Cooper.

Even though it may be difficult to forego some of the most delicious barbecue foods, there are lots of tasty alternatives out there, and it’s worth respecting your triggers so you can stay healthy and happy this season.

Dr Carol Cooper is supporting Nexium Control’s Battle the Burn campaign, which encourages frequent heartburn sufferers to re-evaluate the impact heartburn is having on their day-to-day lives and take steps to manage it in a more positive and proactive way.

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