5 Tips on Managing Stress to Prevent Heartburn

Managing Stress to Prevent Heartburn: Exercise, Sleep and More

Regular exercise can help limit heartburn.
Regular exercise can help limit heartburn.. Sam Edwards/Getty Images

More than half of people who suffer frequent heartburn say a hectic lifestyle and work-related stress increases their heartburn. While stress hasn't been linked directly to heartburn, it is known that it can lead to behaviors that can trigger heartburn. During stressful times, routines are disrupted and people may not follow their normal routines in regards to meals, exercise and medication. It is important to find ways to alleviate the stress, and thus make stress-related heartburn less likely.

Regular Exercise

This not only helps to lower stress and increase your natural "feel-good" chemicals, known as endorphins, but also helps with digestion.

Sleep Seven to Eight Hours a Night

This is critical to keeping our stress level low. Studies have shown that sleep-deprived people have higher stress levels.

Eat Balanced Meals

By consuming plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and fresh fish, you'll provide your brain and body with the necessary nutrients to help you perform under pressure. It is also important to avoid the foods that are your heartburn triggers.

Limit Consumption of Alcohol, Caffeine, Tobacco and Sugar

Studies have shown that these substances cause the stress response to become heightened. Alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco are also heartburn triggers.


Take a quick "mental break." Envision a favorite place in your mind; anyplace that makes you relax just thinking about it.

This can be imagining a walk by the ocean, a drive through the mountains, or being on a hillside watching the sun set. Concentrating seeing, hearing, and smelling the things you imagine will help you relax.

What Is Heartburn?

"Heartburn" is usually a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.

With GERD, acidic stomach contents are regurgitated or refluxed from the stomach to the esophagus. When acid hits the esophagus you feel heartburn.

How Is GERD Diagnosed?

Typically GERD is diagnosed by a physician based on your symptoms and observations made using the history and physical exam. Here are some common symptoms of heartburn:

  • difficulty swallowing
  • feeling that something is stuck in your throat
  • chest pain
  • dry cough
  • burning in the throat
  • throat soreness

How Is Heartburn Treated?

Heartburn caused by GERD can be treated using either over-the-counter or prescription medications. First, antacids like Mylanta and Rolaids provide temporary relief from heartburn. Second, H2 blockers like Zantac cut down the production of acid in the stomach. Third, proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) like Protonix cut down the production of acid in the stomach and allow the lining of the esophagus time to heal.

Both H2 blockers and PPIs are available in over-the-counter and prescription strengths. Initially, your physician may advise you to take over-the-counter medications for a few weeks to see if they work.

If these OTC formulations don't work, you'll likely be prescribed a prescription strength PPI.

If you are feeling heartburn or any symptoms of GERD, it's a good idea to meet with your physician to get evaluated before you start over-the-counter treatment.

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