It is not uncommon to experience the occasional bout of heartburn. And, unfortunately, frequent heartburn is a side effect of aging, but heartburn can affect people of all ages. Regardless of age, constant or chronic heartburn is not normal and is a sign you need to see a gastroenterologist.
If your heartburn is an occasional bother, you can try these tips to minimize the pain and discomfort. However, long term solutions to getting rid of heartburn for good include weight loss, a healthy diet, and routine exercise.
Know Your Triggers
There are several foods that tend to cause heartburn in most people, including acidic foods like citrus fruits, juice, and tomatoes, spicy foods, fatty foods, caffeinated and carbonated beverages, chocolate, peppermint, etc. Some of these things may affect you greatly, while others may cause no symptoms whatsoever. Pay attention to what you ate immediately before your heartburn begins, and watch out for your reactions to that food in the future.
Elevate Your Head
Many people experience acid reflux symptoms at night. When your body is horizontal, it’s much easier for acid to flow up from your stomach into your esophagus. By raising the head of your bed a few inches, gravity can help to ease your acid reflux.
Lose a Few Pounds
While this is definitely easier said than done, it can go a long way towards eliminating heartburn. Excess fat puts pressure on your stomach, which can force acid into your esophagus.
Strategize Your Meals
We’ve already covered the idea that what you eat can contribute to heartburn, but don’t forget that when you eat also makes a difference. Try to stick to smaller meals, don’t lay down or exercise right after eating, and don’t eat at least 3 hours before bed.
When you eat large meals, your stomach is focused solely on producing enough acid to digest the food. When there isn’t much room, like when you’ve eaten enough to make your stomach uncomfortably full, that acid is much more likely to get pushed up into your esophagus. Increased physical activity while exercising also increases your chances that acid will escape your stomach, as does lying down soon after a meal.
Avoid Smoking & Drinking
Certain ingredients in tobacco and alcohol can relax your lower esophageal sphincter, the ring of muscle where your esophagus meets your stomach. The weakening of this muscle means it’s not as effective in keeping your stomach acid inside your stomach, where it belongs.
While it’s normal to experience heartburn every now and then, frequent heartburn could have potentially dangerous consequences. If you have heartburn two or more times a week, difficulty swallowing, or find that over the counter heartburn medications aren’t helping, make an appointment with a gastroenterologist