Why do I feel ‘heaty’?

Thorny issue: Durians are well-known for their purported ‘heatiness’, but you could just be suffering from LPR if you overindulge.

I LOVE to eat chocolates. I usually eat several pieces a day. But each time I eat chocolates, I notice that I get some sort of a sore throat right after. This sore throat does not last and goes away after an hour or two. Is this what people call “heatiness”?


“Heatiness” is a term we Asians have coined ourselves based on traditional medicine.

We tend to get “heaty” after we eat things like chocolates, durian, fried food, spicy food and so on.

In fact, some people practise eating mangosteens after a durian feast, because the mangosteen will purportedly “cool us down” after the “heatiness” of the durian.

What is this “heatiness” then? I have been suffering it all my life and I don’t know why. Is it because these types of food are too “hot” for the body’s qi? I love durians too.

There is actually a physical reason for this “heatiness”.

It is due to temporary acid reflux from your stomach into your larynx (voice box) and pharynx (throat) through your oesophagus (the food tube that connects your mouth to your stomach).

This is also called laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR).

Why does this condition occur when I eat chocolates and durian?

Your oesophagus actually has two ring-like muscles, which function as sphincters.

One is in the upper part of your oesophagus (i.e. the upper oesophageal sphincter), and the other is in the lower part (i.e. the lower oesophageal sphincter).

As sphincters, they can contract and prevent the food in your stomach from flowing back into your oesophagus or throat.

These sphincters only open up one way, i.e. to let food from the oesophagus into your stomach when you swallow.

Otherwise, they remain tightly closed all the other times.

When you have LPR – even temporarily – it means that both these sphincters have been weakened or relaxed.

This lets the contents of your stomach, which are very acidic, travel back into your oesophagus and throat.

Your stomach has a very strong lining to defend against acid, which it produces anyway.

But your oesophagus and throat do not.

So the moment any acid enters your oesophagus and throat, you will feel a “soreness” in your throat or a burning pain in the upper part of your stomach.

Oh. How come I get it then, and my cousin brother, who eats even more chocolates and durians than me, does not? He can eat as many durians in one sitting as he can pay, and still carry on while I am feeling sick!

Not every human being has LPR.

Some people have more effective oesophageal sphincters than others.

It tends to occur more as people age. It also tends to occur more with people who eat a lot of “heaty” food, like to wear tight clothing, are overweight and get easily “stressed out”.

So be careful if you are the type who likes to have hot chillies with each meal, then top it off with a dessert of chocolates and durian!

It also worsens when you have too much alcohol, and like to lie down to sleep soon after eating dinner.

Is LPR the same thing as gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)? My mother has GERD, and suffers from “gastric” problems. Is this the same as “gastric” pain?

No, they are different.

GERD and LPR do share some similarities, but ultimately, the mechanism of each condition is different.

When you have GERD, your stomach acid travels up your oesophagus, but does not reach your throat.

So when you have GERD, the “burning” pain is usually in your stomach and chest.

In GERD, you may also feel bloated, burp frequently and have indigestion.

These are all stomach-related problems.

In LPR, you might have:

> A feeling of something stuck in the throat (this is also known as a “globus-like” sensation)

> An itchy throat and feeling like you have to frequently clear your throat

> A choking sensation in your throat

> A hoarse voice

> A sore throat or throat discomfort

> A cough

> A sour or bitter taste in your mouth (this is usually worse in the morning after lying down the whole night)

> Phlegm in your throat.

What can I do about this? Do I have to see a doctor?

First, you have to change your lifestyle.

If you have LPR, you should avoid food that aggravates it, e.g. oily and/or spicy food, alcohol, chocolates, durians, coffee, and citrus or acidic fruits.

Eat smaller meals.

Stop when you are three-quarters full (not totally full!).

Don’t eat three hours before sleeping.

Raise your head by using an extra pillow while sleeping to help prevent the reflux.

Don’t wear tight clothing.

Lose weight!

When you have throat inflammation, don’t try to clear your throat as this makes it worse; try just swallowing instead.

If all this does not work, go see a doctor.

They may prescribe you antacids or treat you as for GERD.

Dr YLM graduated as a medical doctor, and has been writing for many years on various subjects such as medicine, health, computers and entertainment. For further information, email starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only, and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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heatiness , hot , sore throat

Dr Y.L.M.

Dr Y.L.M.

Dr YLM graduated as a medical doctor, and has been writing for many years on various subjects such as medicine, health, computers and entertainment.


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