I hate heartburn, don’t you? The discomfort and that burning feeling in the chest are a sure way to ruin an otherwise pleasant day or evening.
But we’re not alone in our misery. Heartburn is very common and it usually doesn’t present a major medical problem. While effective prescription medications are available, heartburn often can be prevented or lessened with simple changes in diet or lifestyle.
Take Control of Heartburn
When you have heartburn, it’s a sign that acid in your stomach has backed up into the esophagus. The following tips won’t work for everyone, but you may get relief if you experiment to find what works for you.
Know your triggers. Try keeping a diary of the effects of what you eat. Common problem foods include:
- Citrus fruit and juice
- Fatty foods
Watch your diet. Aim for a low-fat, low-acid diet with plenty of fiber, fruits and vegetables. Try to eat less at each meal and experiment with eating five or six smaller meals daily.
Try herbs. Fennel, ginger and parsley are traditional heartburn remedies. Brew tea or use the herb in cooking.
Chew gum. It increases saliva, a buffer against acid, and helps you swallow more often to clear your esophagus.
Drink a glass of water with each meal.
Don’t eat for two to three hours before bedtime. Make the evening meal a small one.
Eat slowly and take small bites.
Lose weight if you need to.
Exercise daily – but not for at least an hour after eating.
Avoid clothing that is tight in the midsection.
Raise the head of your bed about 6 inches so your body is tilted from the waist up. Just adding more pillows won’t help.
Learn to relax. Anxiety and stress often make heartburn worse. Try meditation, massage or a warm bath.
Know when to get help
If lifestyle changes don’t help, you may need heartburn treatment. Visit your doctor if:
- Heartburn bothers you more than twice a week or lasts more than two weeks.
- You’re reaching for antacids too often.
- Pain and discomfort are interfering with your daily life.
What makes your heartburn worse? What makes it better?
Dr. Benafsha Irani is a board-certified Family Medicine physician who cares for patients at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic – Clear Lake. Her interests include adult medicine, children’s health, women’s health and preventive medicine.