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Lifestyle Changes That Can Prevent Heartburn

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Updated June 12, 2014

Mini Turkey Burgers with Spinach and Tomato
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Heartburn symptoms can often be relieved with good heartburn treatment, including a few lifestyle changes. Follow these suggestions to significantly reduce the occurrence of acid reflux symptoms.

Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
Large meals expand your stomach and increase upward pressure against the esophageal sphincter.

Limit your intake of acid-stimulating foods and beverages.
Eat foods that rarely cause heartburn and avoid those foods that will often cause heartburn.

Don't lie down for about two hours after you eat.
Gravity helps to keep the stomach juices from backing up into the esophagus and assists the flow of food and digestive juices from the stomach to the intestines.

Elevate your head a few inches while you sleep.
Lying down flat presses the stomach's contents against the LES. With the head higher than the stomach, gravity helps reduce this pressure. You can elevate your head in a couple of ways. You can place bricks, blocks or anything that's sturdy securely under the legs at the head of your bed. You can also use an extra pillow, or a wedge-shaped pillow, to elevate your head. Read this article for more tips on easing nighttime heartburn.

Maintain a reasonable weight.
Obesity increases abdominal pressure, which can then push stomach contents up into the esophagus. According to some statistics, approximately 35% of overweight persons experience heartburn. The good news is that for many people, as little as a 10% decrease in weight will improve their heartburn symptoms.

Don't smoke.
Nicotine relaxes the esophageal sphincter. Smoking also stimulates the production of stomach acid. Read this article to learn other ways smoking can worsen heartburn.

Don't drink alcohol.
If you still want to drink alcoholic beverages, follow these tips.

Relax.
While stress hasn't been linked directly to heartburn, it is known that it can lead to behaviors that can trigger heartburn. Follow these relaxation tips to alleviate stress, and thus make stress-related heartburn less likely.

Don't wear belts or clothes that fit tightly around the waist.
Clothing that fits tightly around the abdomen will squeeze the stomach, forcing food up against the LES, and cause food to reflux into the esophagus. Clothing that can cause problems include tight-fitting belts and slenderizing undergarments.

Keep a heartburn record.
Record what triggered your acid reflux episodes, the severity of each episode, how your body reacts, and what gives you relief. The next step is to take this information to your doctor so the both of you can determine what lifestyle changes you will need to make and what treatments will give you maximum relief. To get you started, you can use this Heartburn Record.

Sources:

American Journal of Gastroenterology, "Updated Guidelines for the diagnosis and Treatment of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease." The American College of Gastroenterology. Accessed on 21 May 2007.

American Gastroenterological Association. "Nighttime Heartburn." Accessed on 21 May 2007.

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