10 Tips to Prevent Heartburn
Most of us have experienced that burning sensation in our chest we know as heartburn. Despite the name, the discomfort has nothing to do with the heart, but is caused by stomach acid splashing up into the esophagus where it doesn’t belong.
Dr. Mark Hausmann, surgeon with the Surgeons Group of Baton Rouge, says, “Roughly 20 percent of all adults will experience heartburn once a month. Some people with severe cases may experience heartburn on a daily basis.”
So what can you do to find relief? Here are ten tips to help you beat the burn:
1. Kick butts. Smoking cuts down on saliva, which normally flushes stomach acid out of the esophagus and contains a natural acid fighter, bicarbonate. Chewing gum after meals can also increase saliva and reduce esophageal acid levels.
2. Calm down. Stress can make you feel the symptoms of acid reflux more acutely, and the majority of people with acid reflux say stress is a common trigger.
3. Eat small, frequent meals. A very full stomach can cause stomach acid to back up into the esophagus. Instead, eat smaller meals more often.
4. Don't go to bed with a full stomach. “Lying down after meals and eating big bedtime snacks are prime risk factors for heartburn,” says Dr. Hausmann. Eat meals at least two to three hours before lying down. This will give food time to digest and empty from your stomach, and acid levels a chance to decrease before you lie down.
5. Ban trigger food. Common trigger foods include spicy meals, fatty red meat, fried foods, orange and tomato juice, raw onion, tomato sauce, butter, oil, chocolate, and caffeine. Try instead stomach-soothing oatmeal, banana, fennel, green vegetables or rice.
6. Pause the pills. When used regularly, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen can trigger heartburn.
7. Add some ginger. Fresh ginger acts as an anti-inflammatory and is an age-old remedy for stomach problems of all kinds.
8. Walk it off. A pleasant stroll after meals can help by settling food and aiding digestion. Try to avoid strenuous walking, which can actually stall digestion and leave food in the stomach longer.
9. Drink warm liquids. Drinking a glass of lukewarm water or herbal tea after a meal can dilute and flush out stomach acid.
10. Downsize yourself. A spare tire around your abdomen will press against the stomach, pushing acid upward. “Lose weight, and you’re less likely to suffer heartburn,” says Dr. Hausmann. Tight clothes are another culprit, so don’t squeeze yourself into a tight pair of jeans before a big meal.
April is Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month
Persistent heartburn can be a sign of something more serious. The reflux disease that causes heartburn can lead to Esophageal Cancer, one of the more aggressive and deadly forms of cancer. Be sure to consult your physician for a screening if you have experienced symptoms of persistent heartburn or reflux disease, chronic cough, hoarseness or sore throat, coughing when you lie down or difficulty swallowing.