How to Help Heartburn – 7 Simple Lifestyle Changes
A whopping 60 million of us suffer from heartburn at least once a month.1 You can't always prevent heartburn from happening, but you can reduce the chance of a flare-upand ease painful heartburn symptoms when they occur.
How to Help Heartburn Symptoms
Here are some lifestyle changes that can help you understand how to soothe heartburn.
1. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Anyone can suffer with heartburn, but being overweight increases your chances considerably.2 Even moderate weight gain can exacerbate heartburn symptoms.3 One study found that obese women had almost triple the risk of heartburn and acid reflux.4 Why? Those extra pounds put pressure on your stomach, causing acid to back up into your esophagus.5 The good news is that losing as little as two and a halfpounds can reduce heartburn symptoms.6
You can help reduce your chances of suffering with weight-related heartburn by eating a balanced diet and taking regular exercise. Learn about the different foods that cause heartburn so you know what to avoid, or find out more about the most common causes of heartburn.
2. Change Your Sleep Position
If heartburn keeps you awake at night, one of the most straight forward changes you can make is to sleep with your upper body slightly raised. Elevating your head and chest higher than your stomach reduces the risk of stomach acid flowing into the esophagus.6 Try lifting the head of your bed, or sleep on a wedge-shaped pillow.6 Evidence shows that sleeping on your left side can help aid digestion and should naturally help relieve nighttime heartburn.7 Avoid eating before bedtime, as this will also help ease heartburn. Stomach acid is likely to travel up your digestive tract and into your throat if your body is still digesting food when lying down.6
3. Quit smoking
Smoking is a known trigger for heartburn. When you smoke cigarettes or cigars, nicotine, along with thousands of other chemicals in tobacco smoke, triggers your stomach to produce more acid.8 Smoking also has a muscle-relaxing effect on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). A relaxed LES allows stomach acid to travel up the esophagus, causing heartburn symptoms and potentially damaging the lining of the esophagus.8 Smoking also reduces saliva production, which may also increase your risk of heartburn as saliva helps neutralize stomach acid.8
4. Wear Looser Clothing
You may be surprised to learn your choice of outfit can increase the likelihood of heartburn. Having a tight waistband or belt puts unnecessary pressure on your stomach, which can push stomach acid up into the esophagus, triggering painful heartburn.9 Quickly soothe any discomfort if you experience heartburn after eating by taking your belt down a notch or two and using an antacid such as TUMS. Avoid tight-fitting clothing whenever possible, and if your clothes are feeling uncomfortably tight, take it as a cue to wear looser ones or lose a few pounds.
5. Review Your Diet
If you figured eating buckets of fried, fatty or greasy food puts you at a higher risk of heartburn, you would be right.10 Avoiding – or at least cutting down on10– high-fat, processed and fried foods will reduce the likelihood of digestive discomfort. However, some healthier, nutritious foods such as avocados and nuts are also high in fat and therefore can similarly increase your heartburn risk. The trick is not to avoid healthy fats altogether, but to eat less of them.10
Be aware of other foods and drinks that can raise your heartburn risk, such as citrus fruits10, onions10, garlic10, tomatoes10, whole milk11, spicy foods10, mint10, alcohol11, caffeine10, and carbonated beverages11. Substitute these for heartburn-friendly foods such as oatmeal, potatoes and other vegetables, ginger, lean meats, and seafood.10 Learn more about how diet can cause heartburn.
6. Exercise Properly
Taking regular exercise can help to manage your weight and generally keep you healthy. However, certain types of exercise may make your heartburn symptoms worse, and intense exercise is known to exacerbate symptoms of acid reflux.12 Opt instead for calmer activities–such as walking or swimming – that are gentler on your stomach. It's also important not to exercise right after eating or drinking, as this can cause heartburn symptoms to flare up.12
Stress is also tied to heartburn and acid reflux. Around 34 percent of Americans who regularly suffer from stress claim it upsets their stomachs.13 Stress increases stomach acid production, which in turn can cause or exacerbate heartburn.13
Stress can also make it hard for you to stick to your regular daily routine. The result? An uptick in bad habits when it comes to eating, exercise, or taking medication – all of which can trigger heartburn.It's essential to find ways to alleviate the stress, so you can decrease the chances of getting stress-related heartburn.
How to Treat Heartburn with Antacids
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- Acid Reflux. American College of Gastroenterology. https://gi.org/topics/acid-reflux/. Accessed 09/04/19.Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
- Weight Loss Can Lead to Resolution of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Symptoms: A Prospective Intervention Trial. NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3853378/. Accessed 09/04/19.Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
- Association Between Body Mass Index and Gastroesophageal Reflux Symptoms in Both Normal Weight and Overweight Women. NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2782772/. Accessed 10/26/19.Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
- Body-Mass Index and Symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux in Women. The New England Journal of Medicine. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa054391. Accessed 09/04/19.Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
- Weight Loss and Acid Reflux. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/gerd/weight-loss. Accessed 10/26/19.Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF. vi. Nighttime Heartburn: 12 Sleep Tips. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/features/nighttime-heartburn-sleep-tips#1. Accessed 10/26/19.Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
- How These 3 Sleep Positions Affect Your Gut Health. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-sleep/sleep-effects-digestion#stomach-sleeping. Accessed 09/13/19.Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
- Smoking Can Lead to GERD. Everyday Health. https://www.everydayhealth.com/gerd/gerd-and-smoking.aspx. Accessed 10/29/19.Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
- Can a tight belt cause any physical harm?Men’s Health. https://www.menshealth.com/health/a19517112/can-a-tight-belt-cause-any-physical-harm/. Accessed 10/29/19.Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
- 7 Foods to Help Your Acid Reflux. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/gerd/diet-nutrition. Accessed 10/29/19.Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
- What to Drink for Acid Reflux. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/gerd/beverages. Accessed 10/30/19.Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease and physical activity. NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16646627. Accessed 09/04/19.Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
- What Is Stress? The American Institute of Stress. https://www.stress.org/daily-life. Accessed 09/04/19.Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.