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Tips for Heartburn Relief

Armen Hareyan's picture

Chances are you have experienced heartburn - that uncomfortable burning sensation in your chest and throat.

It's a common digestive response to overindulging in a big meal or eating spicy food. It's also a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition in which digestive acid flows back (refluxes) into the tube (esophagus) that connects your mouth and stomach.

Occasional heartburn is generally nothing to worry about, but some people are bothered by heartburn every day. Whether your symptoms are mild or severe, lifestyle changes can help reduce heartburn. The May issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter offers tips to reduce or eliminate symptoms:

Eat smaller meals - Smaller meals reduce pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter. This ring of muscles normally keeps digestive acid in your stomach, helping prevent acid reflux.

Avoid your "triggers" - Most people have specific heartburn triggers such as fatty or fried foods, alcohol, chocolate, peppermint, garlic, onion, tomato-based foods, spicy foods, citrus foods, caffeine or nicotine.

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Loosen your belt - Tightness around your waist pressures the lower abdomen and the lower esophageal sphincter.

Don't lie down after a meal - Wait at least three hours after eating before going to bed or lying down.

Give up tobacco - Smoking can increase stomach acid. Swallowing air during smoking may also aggravate acid reflux.

Try to lose weight - Being overweight is one of the greatest risk factors for heartburn.

Raise the head of your bed - Elevating the head of your bed about six inches puts gravity to work for you. Use bricks or blocks under the feet at the head of your bed, or insert a wedge between your mattress and box springs to elevate your body from the waist up. Raising your head with an extra pillow doesn't help.

Sleep on your left side - This may help your stomach empty better.

If heartburn bothers you, talk to your doctor. Over-the-counter and prescription medications can help when lifestyle changes aren't enough. Surgery to tighten the sphincter muscles to prevent reflux also is an option.