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How to Deal with Heartburn

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Heartburn and gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) can cause serious discomfort, especially to individuals who suffer from one or both on a daily basis. These conditions occur when the lower esophageal sphincter muscle weakens and no longer closes properly. In a healthy digestive system, the lower esophageal sphincter opens to allow food and liquid into the stomach, then closes again to prevent corrosive acid from seeping up into the esophagus. When acid enters the esophagus, it causes a burning sensation in the chest area. GERD especially, is not only physically painful, but can also cause lasting damage if not dealt with over a long period of time.  Many individuals experience some degree of heartburn, especially as they age. Here are a few things you can do to avoid and hopefully minimize symptoms.

Don’t wear tight-fitting clothing, especially around meal times.

They may be stylish, but  clothes that are too tight can put extra pressure on your abdomen.

Don’t lie down right after eating.

It’s sometimes tempting to lie down for a short snooze after a big meal. If you’re prone to heartburn though, it would be much better to stay upright for at least the next few hours. Lying down can send even more stomach acid up the esophagus, significantly worsening symptoms. A better idea would be to go for a gentle 15-minute walk. Walking will help you digest your food more quickly and also boost your metabolism slightly.

Don’t eat right before going to bed.

Late-night meals should also be avoided whenever possible. It is very important for you to have at least three hours to digest properly before hitting the hay. That means if you plan to be in bed by 10 PM, you should start dinner no later than 6 PM. in order to be finished eating by 7 PM. It’s also a very good idea to make your evening meal a lighter one, so your body has less to digest before going to bed.

Don’t smoke.

There are dozens of good reasons to either avoid smoking or quit altogether. Another good reason not to smoke, even occasionally, is that smoking damages the functioning ability of the lower esophageal sphincter and increases more acid production, meaning more heartburn for you.

Stay away from trigger foods.

Certain foods are notorious for causing heartburn. If you suffer regular symptoms, stay away from spicy foods, tomato products, highly acidic foods (especially citrus fruit and juice), onions, chocolate, peppermint, alcohol, coffee, carbonated beverages and fried or fatty foods.

Eat multiple smaller meals.

A big, heavy meal can be a challenge for your body to process all at one time. Instead of feasting in the evening, enjoy smaller meals and snacks at regular intervals throughout the day. It’s better for your metabolism and easier on your digestive tract.

Maintain a healthy weight.

Weight reduction is recommended for those who are overweight, calculated by BMI. Moreover, too many kilos of food in your abdomen puts pressure on your stomach, forcing acid back up into the esophagus.

Elevate your head when you sleep.

Many people experience heartburn late at night or when sleeping, due to their sleeping position. Try raising the angle of your head and torso by putting a wedge between your mattress and the box spring. You can also sleep with extra pillows, but this may not be quite as effective. If this is a really big problem, there are also beds that make it possible to elevate the mattress to a comfortable sleeping position.

The last two suggestions are the most significant lifestyle modifications which can help reduce GERD.

References.

  1. Mayo Clinic: Diseases and Conditions – Heartburn. Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heartburn/basics/definition/con-20019545. Accessed on March 21, 2015.
  2. Ohio Gastroenterology & Liver Institute: Reflux/Heartburn Symptom Relief. http://ohiogi.com/clinical-research/symptoms-and-solutions/refluxheartburn/. Accessed on March 28, 2015.


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