Dr Petcha

My Heart or Stomach

Wife asks: Whenever you are not around for dinner, I tend to have heartburns in the middle of my chest. Do I have a problem with my heart or my stomach?

Recent studies have shown that people who eat alone are more likely to develop heartburn and gastric ulcers. The reason being? When meals are taken with family, friends, or colleagues, the process of eating will be mixed in with conversations and joyful topics. As this is happening, the stomach will be releasing an abundance of gastric juice which will expedite gastric emptying and intestinal movements. This ensures proper digestion and absorption of food.

On the other hand, if you are eating alone, without the company of others, you will have a tendency to rush through the meals to hurry back to do the task at hand. To escape the boredom of eating, you will likely have a phone or television on something to keep your attention diverted to the fact that you are eating alone. This might create unwanted stress and emotions that could constrict blood flow to the stomach, inhibit normal digestion and gastric emptying, and inhibit the release of digestive gastric juice. All of this will result in the accumulation of food and acidic gastric juice hanging around the gastric/duodenum region which can lead to inflammation or ulcers.

Suggestion: Next time you are eating alone, take a pause to enjoy the moment, and really taste the food you are eating. And if you have a history of heartburn/gastric problems, watch out for food items such as chocolate, coffee, pepper, mint, whole milk, or pungent vegetables such as onions and garlic.