A total of 11 patients suffering from acid reflux, producing painful heartburn, took part in the study.
After being given drugs to suppress their normal digestive acid production, and fasting, they were given incremental doses of hydrochloric acid. At the same time they were perfused with either a salt solution or emulsified fat into their intestine.
The amount of fat was less than what would normally be expected to enter the first section of the small intestine after a high fat meal.
|Impact of high-fat diet on heartburn:|
- Speeded up start of symptoms
- Increased intensity
- Increased severity
Although symptom start and intensity varied with acid level, fat perfusion significantly speeded up the start of symptoms, and increased both their intensity and severity.
Previous research, say the authors, has indicated that fat alters sensations originating in the gut, enhancing feelings of fullness and motion sickness.
Why this should be so is not fully understood, they say, but comment that the small intestine is full of nerves that discharge signals when fatty acids are present, and that these may alter pain thresholds.