Is Eating Before Bed Bad for Your Health?

What eating at night does to your body.

Q: Is it really important to stop eating before 8 p.m.?

OZ Says: Yes, it is, but not because late-night calories stick and become fat (that hasn't been proven). The reason is that meals too close to bedtime could cause acid reflux or its more severe form, GERD—that's the acronym for gastroesophageal reflux disease.

In some people, the muscles at the base of the esophagus don't close after they eat. Stomach acid and enzymes gurgle back up where they don't belong and bring on miseries including heartburn, nausea, bloating, indigestion, and sometimes hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, or a chronic cough. There may even be a link between severe GERD and esophageal cancer.

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"When you lie down shortly after a big meal, you lose the benefit of gravity in keeping food and enzymes down," says reflux specialist Jamie Koufman, M.D. Antacids sometimes tame the trouble, but her no-pill strategies help prevent it: Wait at least three hours after eating before lying down; make lunch your biggest meal; if you have to eat late, skip high-fat and processed foods, which slow digestion, as well as alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, and carbonated beverages.

This story originally appeared in the January/February 2015 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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