10 Simple Tips to Prevent Heartburn

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You may feel heartburn when stomach acid is allowed to flow back up into your esophagus, the tube that carries food to your stomach. Occasional heartburn is very common, but for some people, it is more frequent and can interfere with their daily life. You should see your doctor for an evaluation if you have heartburn more than twice a week and it isn't relieved with over-the-counter remedies. You can also use these tips to prevent heartburn.

How to Prevent Heartburn

These are simple tips you can follow that will help you prevent heartburn.

  1. Eat smaller, more frequent meals. A full stomach can put extra pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which will increase the chance that some of this food will reflux into the esophagus
  2. Limit your intake of acid-stimulating foods and beverages. Eat foods that rarely cause heartburn and avoid those foods that will often cause heartburn.
  3. Don't eat within two to three hours before bedtime. Lying down with a full stomach can cause stomach contents to press harder against the LES, increasing the chances of refluxed food.
  4. Elevate your head a few inches while you sleep. Lying down flat presses the stomach's contents against the LES. With the head higher than the stomach, gravity helps reduce this pressure. You can elevate your head in a couple of ways. You can place bricks, blocks or anything that's sturdy securely under the legs at the head of your bed. You can also use a wedge-shaped pillow, to elevate your head.
  1. Maintain a reasonable weight. Obesity increases abdominal pressure, which can then push stomach contents up into the esophagus. According to some statistics, approximately 35 of overweight persons experience heartburn. The good news is that for many people, as little as a 10 percent decrease in weight will improve their heartburn symptoms.
  1. Don't wear belts or clothes that are tight fitting around the waist. Clothing that fits tightly around the abdomen will squeeze the stomach, forcing food up against the LES, and cause food to reflux into the esophagus. Clothing that can cause problems includes tight-fitting belts and slenderizing undergarments.
  2. Don't smoke. Smoking worsens heartburn. Nicotine relaxes the esophageal sphincter. Smoking also stimulates the production of stomach acid.
  3. Don't drink alcohol. Alcoholic beverages make heartburn worse. It's best to avoid it or limit yourself to tall drinks where the alcohol is well-diluted with mixers, and have only one to two drinks at a time.
  4. Relax. While stress hasn't been linked directly to heartburn, it is known that it can lead to behaviors that can trigger heartburn. Practicing relaxation techniques to alleviate stress will make stress-related heartburn less likely.
  5. Keep a heartburn record. Record what triggered your acid reflux episodes, the severity of each episode, how your body reacts, and what gives you relief. The next step is to take this information to your doctor so the both of you can determine what lifestyle changes you will need to make and what treatments will give you maximum relief.

    How Your Doctor Can Help

    If your heartburn is frequent and it is upsetting your daily life, have it evaluated by your doctor. Chronic heartburn is a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and some other digestive disorders. Untreated acid reflux may lead to complications, including esophageal cancer. Your doctor can prescribe a treatment for heartburn or acid reflux.

    You may be prescribed medication for heartburn. Be sure to take your medication at the same time every day. If you are prone to forgetting, leave yourself a note to remind you or take your medication when you do another daily activity that you don't forget doing, such as brushing your teeth or washing your face.

    Sources:

    Heartburn Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heartburn/basics/definition/con-20019545 .

    Symptoms & Causes of GER & GERD. National Institute of Diabetes Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults/symptoms-causes.

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