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 9 Ways to Avoid Heartburn

By DuPage Medical Group Gastroenterology

One of the most unwelcome side-effects of overeating is indigestion. You may have heard of indigestion referred to as “heartburn.” Heartburn is characterized by a burning sensation in your chest or the feeling of acid rising up into your throat. Other common symptoms may include regurgitation of food or fluids or difficulty swallowing due to a sensation of food feeling like it is stuck in the chest.

Less commonly, some patients suffer from chronic cough, asthma, and voice hoarseness. When patients suffer for more than several weeks from heartburn despite modifications, they may be diagnosed with GERD (gastric esophageal reflux disease).

Why Does Heartburn Happen?
Surprisingly, heartburn has nothing to do with your heart. Rather, it is the consequence of acid backing up and irritating your esophagus (the tube that leads from your throat to your stomach). When your digestive system is working properly, a valve called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) prevents stomach contents from moving back into your esophagus. The LES is located between your esophagus and stomach, its function is to open to allow food to pass, then close after food moves to the stomach to prevent reflux. When this valve opens too frequently and does not seal shut, stomach acid can leak through and move back into your esophagus. This acid irritation is the “heartburn” you detect. Along with overeating and excess pressure on the stomach, certain foods and lifestyle factors result in a dysfunctional LES.

How Can You Prevent Heartburn?
Heartburn can become a disruptive problem. You can take care of yourself by avoiding or managing symptoms with the following simple lifestyle changes:

1. Certain foods are known to aggravate symptoms of heartburn or change the functionality of the lower esophageal sphincter. Be sure to steer clear of:

  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Spicy foods
  • Citrus foods
  • Foods containing tomatoes
  • Fatty foods

2. Slow down between bites and eat smaller meals to minimize symptoms. Plan for smaller and more frequent meals.

3. Limit food intake to at least 3-4 hours before you lying down to sleep.

4. Alcoholic beverages can trigger heartburn due to increasing acidity in the esophagus or reducing the ability of the lower esophageal sphincter to retain a tight seal.
-If you do drink, have your last cocktail at least 3-4 hours before lying down to sleep
-Red wine may intensify symptoms more than other options.

5. Sleep in an elevated position
-Raising the head of your bed by 4-6 inches may prevent gastric contents from refluxing into your esophagus.

6. Don’t forget to move around after eating rather than remaining sedentary. Even a short walk can be helpful.

7. Wear loose and comfortable clothing to reduce pressure.

8. Weight loss is an effective long-term goal to reduce pressure on the stomach. Talk to your doctor about a dietary management plan as weight loss along with the right choices of nourishment will reduce heartburn symptoms.

9. Smoking cessation is also known to provide relief from heartburn.

If Heartburn Happens, How Can You Manage Symptoms?
If the tips above are not providing enough relief, non-prescription antacids can neutralize acid in the stomach and provide a temporary break from symptoms. However, long-term use of these medications can have side effects. If your heartburn lasts more than two weeks after trying the lifestyle adjustments above, it is time to seek a consultation with a gastroenterologist in order to try prescription medications and to rule out other conditions.

If your heartburn if not resolved by adhering to the tips above, you can schedule a consultation with a gastroenterologist by calling 630-717-2600 or click here to schedule online.


Topics and Subtopics: Digestive Disorders

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