By Heather Maloney

BIDMC Correspondent


Dr. James Rabb, a gastroenterologist specializing in nutrition and gastroenterology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, helps dispel some common food myths:


Myth: Drinking milk helps calm an upset stomach.


Fact: While milk may help buffer the acid in your stomach at first, milk contains fat, which delays the movement of food out of the stomach into the intestine, so nausea and vomiting might even increase. Many people are lactose (milk sugar) intolerant, and gastrointestinal illnesses tend to worsen that or even make normal people intolerant, so milk may actually increase bloating, cramps and diarrhea. And though it may initially be soothing, milk actually induces acid production, which will contribute to an upset stomach.


Myth: Chocolate causes heartburn.


Fact: Chocolate contains compounds that reduce the strength of the lower esophageal sphincter (the muscle at the bottom of the swallowing tube that keeps acid down in the stomach and prevents irritating gastric fluid from refluxing upward), causing heartburn in patients with esophagitis (irritation of the lower esophagus).


Myth: Mint eases intestinal cramps.


Fact: For centuries, spices and herbs have been used to treat gastrointestinal upset. Mint falls into a class of spices called carminatives, which affect the GI tract. And while mint will ease intestinal cramps by relaxing intestinal muscles, it also relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter muscle and can bring on acid reflux and heartburn.


Myth: Consuming sugar causes gas.


Fact: Consuming certain types of sugar like fructose (in high fructose corn syrup) or certain common sugar substitutes, like sucralose and sorbitol, often produce the same symptoms as lactose intolerance, which include bloating, gas and diarrhea. Sucrose (table sugar) does not have this effect.


Myth: Drinking alcohol aggravates irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).


Fact: Alcohol is an irritant, so it can bring on symptoms of reflux or gastritis. The contents of some alcoholic beverages can also alter the actions of intestinal muscles and trigger an attack of IBS.


Myth: Eating prunes relieves constipation.


Fact: Prunes contain an organic compound that is cathartic, so prunes and prune juice do, in fact, relieve constipation.


Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor