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Reflux, Heartburn Pain

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Eleven simple tips to help you prevent heartburn

15 Jan 2013
Eleven simple tips to help you prevent heartburn article image

Heartburn is often felt as a burning pain in the lower chest, beginning at the breastbone and radiating up the throat, along with a sour or bitter taste in the throat and mouth.  

To some people, heartburn is merely a slight discomfort – to others it is very painful.  

The attacks may leave you with a sore throat. The symptoms vary from person to person and can last from a few minutes to more than a day.  

Heartburn is often worse after eating, when the stomach produces the most acid.  

But episodes can occur at any time of the day and even wake you during the night.     

Here are 11 simple steps you can follow to help prevent heartburn:   

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. Avoid large, high-fat meals and bedtime snacks.  

Limit your intake of acid-stimulating foods  

You should try to avoid foods known to cause heartburn. This includes foods high in acid such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, onions. Also, spicy foods can be a heartburn trigger for many people. Foods high in fats should also be avoided including: cheese, nuts, avocado and fatty meats.  

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.  

Give yourself a boost  

Elevate your head a few inches while you sleep. Raising the head of the bed prevents stomach acid from rising into your esophagus. With the head higher than the stomach, gravity helps reduce this pressure.  

Maintain a reasonable weight  

Obesity increases abdominal pressure, which can then push stomach contents up into the esophagus. According to some statistics, about 35 per cent of overweight people suffer heartburn. The good news is that for many people, as little as a 10 per cent decrease in weight will improve their heartburn symptoms.  

Don't wear belts or tight-fitting clothes 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 include tight-fitting belts and slenderizing undergarments.               

Stop smoking  

Nicotine relaxes the esophageal sphincter. Smoking also stimulates the production of stomach acid.  

Avoid alcohol  

It is better to drink water. Beer, wine, soft drinks and other carbonated or acidic beverages all cause stomach acid to spike.  

Limit caffeine intake  

Drinking large amounts of caffeine (coffee and tea) can trigger heartburn. Similarly, consuming large amounts of chocolate (high in caffeine) can have the same effect.  

Relax  

While stress hasn't been linked directly to heartburn, it is known that it can lead to behaviors that can trigger heartburn.

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 both of you can determine what lifestyle changes you will need to make and what treatments will give you maximum relief.

Consider factors beyond food. It may be the timing or quantity of a particular food that triggers your reflux, not the food itself. You may be eating too close to bedtime, or you may be eating too much of a particular food.

If you can't prevent the recurrence of acid reflux, visit your doctor for a complete examination. Acid reflux is a serious condition that left untreated could lead to severe complications, such as esophageal ulcers or cancer.

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