Essential Tips to Reduce and Treat Heartburn Symptoms
Heartburn has many names and comes in many forms: you may hear it called indigestion, acid reflux or simply heartburn or you may have heard of GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease. These are all different ways of describing a spectrum of similar symptoms, although GERD is considered the most severe form. For simplicities sake, I will refer to everything as heartburn in this lecture.
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If you have never seen a physician for your heart burn, I would recommend that you do. Generally, heartburn is a benign process especially if it occurs only occasionally. However it can be a sign of other problems going on with your stomach; can mask or mimic heart problems and can also lead to a problem called barrett’s esophagus which increases your risk of throat cancer. So make sure to talk to your doctor about it.
Foods to avoid
- Peppermint, minty foods
- Tomatoes, ketchup, pasta sauce
- Citrus- lemons, oranges, limes
- Greasy and fried foods, anything high in fat
- Excessively Spicy Foods
Time your food. Timing of when you eat is very important in reducing heartburn. If you eat too much food in one sitting, it can cause heartburn. If you go too long without eating and snack on an irritant, it can also cause heartburn.
Do not eat too closely to your bedtime. After you eat, your stomach is producing stomach acid to digest the food. If you lay down too soon, it makes it easier for that stomach acid to reflux up your esophagus and cause heartburn.
Lose weight. Losing weight can help reduce the symptoms of heartburn. Multiple studies have shown a significant association between weight loss and improvements in heartburn symptoms.
Quit smoking. Smoke is a known irritant to the stomach and esophagus. You might think the smoke only goes to your lungs, but it doesn’t.
Avoid alcohol. Alcohol is a known irritant of the stomach lining. It can worsen your symptoms
Raise your head. If it’s worse when laying down, try raising the head of the bed. With most beds, you can simply use more pillows, or consider stuffing something between the mattress and the box spring.
Avoid tight fitting clothing. Pressure on your abdominal cavity can increase the pressure on your stomach, loosening the sphincter that connects to the esophagus and increase heartburn.
Drink more water. This is especially helpful if you get heartburn after exercising.
- Low fat foods
- melons, bananas (fruit with low acid)
- Oatmeal, bread, rice (dont cause reflux, can soak up acid)
- Green vegetables
- Egg whites (yolk may cause reflux)
- Milk (but not all dairy products)
Other foods that may help
- Aloe Vera
- Antacids (Tums, maalox, rolaids, mylanta, etc).
- (These are OTC, follow directions, if you need to use them every day, you need to see your doctor)
- Prescription medications (H-2 blockers, Proton Pump Inhibitors)
- Talk to your doctor about them
Lastly, if you’re really struggling, consider a food diary. Your trigger may not be the same as everyone else's. You probably think you can remember everything you eat, but you can’t. If you write it down, it will help you find a pattern.