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What Kind of Heartburn Am I Tempting By Lying Down After I Eat?

I’m supposed to pretend that I can remain upright throughout this whole food coma?

One of my favorite things to do during the pre-married era of my life was to binge on Tostitos and Coke Zero right before bed. Of course, this all led to horrendous indigestion and a trip to the medicine cabinet to locate some Tums, Rolaids or Pepcid. It was an extremely asinine habit writ large. Not only was my chip-binging undoing all of my fat-scorching work in the swimming pool, but I was also making myself unbearably uncomfortable from heartburn every night.

The bottom line is, I shouldn’t have been eating a bunch of food and then lying down to take a snooze, because no good can emerge from that situation.

Oh really? What sorts of things can happen if I lie down after I eat?

When you lie down shortly after ingesting your meals, you may outwardly resemble someone who is at rest, but your innards are a veritable whirlwind of activity. Speaking of which, he who sows the wind may reap the whirlwind, but he who sows a pizza reaps a bout of acid indigestion. So, if you opt to recline following a Domino’s Pizza bender, your digestive system is aligned with the function of gravity, and they’re both moving the food downward. Therefore, in your supine or horizontal state, your body is forcing your food to move laterally while gravity is attempting to tug it straight downward. This can cause the gastric acid in your stomach to reflux into your esophagus, thereby causing heartburn and other symptoms of indigestion. 

Gravity is always screwing things up! Well, at least it’s a temporary problem. Sounds like the discomfort might be worth it.

If only that were true.

There’s a specific medical condition associated with this problem, called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Unfortunately, one of the causes of its more serious form is repeated episodes of lying down after consuming meals. The symptoms of GERD include the standard heartburn, accompanied by chest pain, asthma, disrupted sleep and even joint pain. Multiple studies have supported the notion that heading off to lie down within three hours of concluding a meal contributes to the development of GERD, so please take caution before you find yourself contending with uncomfortable episodes of acid-induced discomfort.

That sounds terrible! Could it get any worse?!

Unfortunately, it can.

This may be a mild sub-concern when weighed against a full-fledged GERD diagnosis, but lying down or sleeping after you eat doesn’t do much in the way of protecting your figure, either. While studies have shown that the consequences of eating nighttime meals before lying down are greatly attenuated if the meals are small, are of beneficial quality or have been somewhat offset by a round of exercise, it remains true that eating large meals at night before hitting the hay is a notable contributor toward obesity. 

Sounds like my days of eating popcorn in bed are through!

And not a minute too soon! But I’d be remiss if I failed to warn you that eggs, sweet potatoes and bananas are three of the foods that are generally considered to be okay to eat before you sleep. However, you should still consume them two to three hours before bedtime. That means if I want to avoid the Tums the next time I have Tostitos and Coke Zero as a midnight snack, I shouldn’t plan on putting my head back down on the pillow until at least two or three in the morning.