- Cancer Information
- Living well
- Nutrition and cancer
- Treatment side effects and nutrition
- Heartburn (indigestion)
Some cancers and treatments can cause stomach contents to come back up into the oesophagus (food pipe). This is known as reflux and it can irritate the lining of the oesophagus, leading to a burning feeling in the upper chest, oesophagus and/or throat. This sensation is called heartburn or indigestion. It can be made worse by eating certain foods or lying down after eating.
Heartburn may make you feel too uncomfortable to eat much, which could lead to weight loss. Keeping a diary of the foods you eat and your symptoms can help you identify which foods trigger the heartburn. If the tips below don’t relieve heartburn, let your doctor know. They may be able to prescribe medicines to help.
How to manage heartburn
- Avoid large meals; try to eat three small meals and three snacks throughout the day.
- Eat slowly and enjoy your meal. Avoid wearing tight clothing (especially belts) while eating.
- Sip fluids between meals, rather than drinking large amounts at mealtimes.
- Limit or avoid foods that may make heartburn worse: chocolate, very spicy foods, high-fat foods (e.g. fried food, pastries, cream), tomato and tomato products, citrus fruits, coffee (including decaf), strong tea, soft drinks and alcohol.
- After eating, sit upright for at least 30 minutes and avoid lying down or activities that involve bending over (e.g. gardening).
- Lift the head of the bed by 15–20 cm by putting blocks under the bed legs or using a wedge under the mattress.
Jenelle Loeliger, Head of Nutrition and Speech Pathology Department, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Rebecca Blower, Public Health Advisor, Cancer Prevention, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Julia Davenport, Consumer; Irene Deftereos, Senior Dietitian, Western Health, VIC; Lynda Menzies, A/Senior Dietitian – Cancer Care (APD), Sunshine Coast University Hospital, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Janice Savage, Consumer.
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