10 Lifestyle Changes to Help Avoid Heartburn
Has your daily life been interrupted by episodes of heartburn? Maybe you are in the middle of dinner with your family and you notice an acidic taste in your mouth and in the back of your throat. Or, maybe you are watching the last three minutes of the big game with your friends and start to notice that dreaded burning sensation in your chest .
Do these situations sound familiar? If so, here are 10 lifestyle changes that can be implemented into your daily routine that can help prevent or minimize the effects of heartburn:
1. Stop smoking
Heartburn occurs when stomach acids reflux, or travel up, to the esophagus. Often, this reflux is caused by relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a group of muscles that connects the esophagus to the stomach. When functioning normally, the LES tightens and prevents the movement of stomach acids from the stomach back up to the esophagus. Smoking can increase the risk of heartburn by weakening the LES, leading to the reflux of stomach acids and heartburn symptoms. Smoking can also reduce the amount of saliva your body produces. Saliva is important because it contains bicarbonates, which are molecules that work to protect the lining of your throat from stomach acids.
2. Reduce stress
It is thought that stress and lack of sleep can lead to increased acid production in the stomach. While stress has not been directly linked to heartburn, it is known that stress can impact other areas of your life that are known to contribute to heartburn symptoms, including disruption of your normal eating, exercise, and sleep routines.
3. Watch what you eat / avoid triggers
Certain foods and beverages can trigger heartburn and lead to symptoms. Some items that are commonly associated with heartburn symptoms include:
fried or fatty foods
greasy or spicy foods
Consider trying these tips for your heartburn friendly diet .
4. Watch when you eat
Avoid eating three hours prior to when you would like to lay down and go to sleep. If you eat too close to bedtime, your stomach doesn’t have enough time to digest the food you ate.
5. Don’t eat too fast or too much
When you eat too fast or too much, it can lead to increased pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and in the abdomen. Slow down while eating meals and try eating smaller meals, more frequently. This can help prevent or minimize heartburn symptoms by allowing your body time to digest .
6. Elevate your head at night
Elevate your head before going to sleep by using blocks or a wedge pillow. Sleeping at an incline of 4-6 inches can help prevent stomach acids from leaving your stomach and traveling up your esophagus, leading to symptoms of heartburn at night.
7. Loosen your belt after meals / wear looser clothes
Wearing a belt or tight-fitting clothing can increase the pressure on your abdomen and worsen heartburn symptoms.
8. Exercise frequently
Being overweight or obese can lead to increased symptoms of heartburn due to increased pressure on the abdomen and LES. Exercising regularly can help you to decrease excess weight around your midsection and may help to prevent stomach acids from traveling back up the esophagus. Some exercises you could try to implement into your routine include:
Low impact exercises, like walking or riding a bike
Aerobic exercises, such as swimming, cycling, or dancing
Remember that certain exercises may lead to increased symptoms of heartburn. High-impact exercise, such as running or jogging, can worsen acid reflux. Crunches and other ab exercises can lead to heartburn by placing extra pressure on the abdomen. Be mindful of any heartburn symptoms you may experience if participating in these activities.
9. Avoid alcohol
Drinking alcohol can lead to the weakening of the LES and contribute to heartburn symptoms.
10. Keep a heartburn diary or log
Keeping a diary of what you eat, when you eat, and how you feel can help you better manage your symptoms. Make sure to document how often you are experiencing heartburn symptoms. Discussing your diary with your healthcare provider can also help them recommend the best treatment for you.
If you struggle with frequent heartburn, try some of these tips to help prevent and minimize heartburn symptoms. If you find that these lifestyle tips aren’t enough, consider trying Prilosec OTC to treat your frequent heartburn. With just one pill a day, you can experience zero heartburn for 24-hours.*
Sources (Accessed March 2021)
NYU Langone Health, “Lifestyle Changes for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease”
American Gastroenterological Association, “Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease”