Banish the Burn

There’s no sugar coating the discomfort of heartburn: When food and stomach acid travel back up into your esophagus, it’s going to hurt. Sufferers often describe a burning sensation in the chest either just after they’ve eaten or later at night. While the symptoms thankfully subside, they shouldn’t be ignored, especially if they pop up more than twice a week. That’s because over time the esophagus could be damaged, or you might have a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Fortunately, making a few small changes to your daily habits can help prevent heartburn from happening in the first place. [1, 2]

Rethink What You Drink

Carbonated beverages, alcohol, coffee, and other caffeinated drinks can contribute to heartburn. [3] And -- surprise! -- so does decaffeinated coffee. [4] Ingredients in these beverages can relax the esophageal sphincter, allowing acid to come up. [4] Drinking water, which aids digestion, between meals can help. [3] Since it’s not easy to pinpoint one cause, experts often advise those who experience frequent heartburn to keep a food journal for a few weeks. Simply jot down what you’ve had to sip and eat at each meal, and take note of any symptoms that occur soon after. You’ll start to notice patterns that you can share with your doctor and that will help you manage the condition. [3]

Let Gravity Work for You

When you’re ready to turn in for the night, having your upper torso raised helps decrease the likelihood of nighttime heartburn. Insert a wedge between your mattress and box spring, or place blocks under the head of the bed. If you take naps during the day, try snoozing while sitting in a reclining chair. [3, 4]

No Meals Before Bed

At least 3 to 4 hours [1] before you plan to go to bed, make your kitchen off-limits. This interim gives your digestive system more time to do its job before you lie down. It’s also especially important to rein in portion size at dinnertime, because large meals and overeating can also contribute to heartburn. [3, 4]

Reconfigure Your Menu

Foods that are high in fat (like pizza) or are particularly spicy (such as chili) are common causes of heartburn. Instead, opt for high-protein, low-fat meals, such as a turkey sandwich, and turn down the heat by avoiding trigger foods. [3, 4]

Chew Sugarless Gum

If you do indulge in a high-fat meal (say at a special event), chewing sugarless gum afterward might help. A study in the Journal of Dental Research found that chewing gum for 30 minutes after a high-fat meal lessens acid reflux by generating enough saliva to make you swallow more and push acid back down. [5]

SOURCES:

1.Medline Plus: Heartburn:

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/heartburn.html

Accessed 8/8/2013

2. Medline Plus: GERD

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/gerd.html

Accessed 8/8/2013

3. Cleveland Clinic: Preventing and Managing Heartburn

http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/heartburn/hic_preventing_and_managing_heartburn.aspx

Accessed 8/8/2013

4. University of Maryland Medical Center: GERD

http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/gastroesophageal-reflux-disease

Accessed 8/8/2013

5. Moazzez RBartlett DAnggiansah A.

The Effect of Chewing Sugar-free Gum on Gastro-esophageal Reflux

J DENT RES November 2005 84: 1062-1065