How to Prevent Heartburn

Heartburn happens when a defective valve in your digestive system causes acids to go out of control, resulting in a burning sensation in the chest.

Heartburn is a very common symptom. About 60 million Americans experience heartburn symptoms at least once a month.

How heartburn happens

To understand what happens when you get heartburn, start with happens when you eat.

Once you swallow a bite, it goes down the esophagus and into the stomach. A valve called the lower esophageal sphincter opens up to let the food in, and then closes again to keep the stomach acids from going up into the esophagus.

Lower Esophageal Sphincter

In some people the valve does not function properly, allowing acids to seep into the esophagus. This is called acid reflux. When acid goes back up the esophagus, it causes pain and irritation.

But not everyone who has acid reflux suffers from heart burn. Some people with heartburn symptoms do not have acid reflux but may have some other condition which causes heartburn.

Acid Reflux Symptoms

Heartburn is characterized by painful, burning sensation in the middle of the chest. The pain usually strikes after meals and can last for several hours. The pain may feel worse after bending over or lying down.

Other symptoms of severe heartburn include a sour-tasting fluid at the back of the throat, difficulty swallowing, or the feeling that food is stuck in the chest or throat. A chronic cough or asthma attacks may also be cause by acid reflux. A description of heartburn symptoms is generally all you need to diagnose acid reflux.

Heartburn complications

Heartburn is generally a harmless condition. However, complications may occur with severe, frequent, and persistent acid reflux. If you experience severe heartburn, at least twice a week, you may have a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If this is the case, see your doctor. If not treated with prescription meds, GERD can cause inflammation, ulcers, and changes in the lining of the esophagus called Barrett’s esophagus. Such changes can increase the risk of esophageal cancer.

Managing heartburn at home

You can manage mild heartburn at home by creating a few changes to your daily routine:

  • Eat smaller meals
  • Finish dinner 3-4 hours before bedtime to avoid late-night snacks – food in the stomach when you lie down can trigger acid reflux symptoms
  • Watch what you eat – avoid eating foods that bring addition acid into the stomach such as tomatoes, onions, garlic, chocolate, peppermint, fatty foods, citrus fruits and some spicy foods.
  • Watch what you drink – some beverages also cause heartburn, including coffee, tea, sodas, alcohol, tomato juice, and orange juice. But if these drinks do not cause acid reflux, you do not have to avoid them. Your safest bet is water since it dilutes acid in the digestive tract.
  • Change your exercise routine – exercise can increase abdominal pressure, increasing the risk of acid reflux. Some exercises increase the risk more than others by reversing the natural flow of digestion. Some of them include headstands, and inverted yoga poses. Abdominal crunches may be a problem too, because the movement may push stomach acids into the esophagus.
  • Raise the head of your bed – if you suffer from nighttime heartburn, try raising the head of your bed about 6 inches by putting blocks under its legs. You can also sleep with your upper body on a wedge pillow. This technique keeps stomach acids where they belong. Avoid raising your head using several pillows. This bends the body in such a way that can worsen heartburn. You may also want to sleep on you left side rather than on you right since acid reflux occurs less frequently this way.

Source: WebMD