You know it when it happens – that burning sensation beginning in the middle of your chest that can sometimes creep all the way up to your neck, throat and even jaw. This burning sensation caused by a backflow of stomach acid into the unprotected esophagus is known as heartburn and for some it is a weekly if not daily occurrence.
Heartburn happens when the muscle around the bottom of your esophagus acting as a valve, becomes weak allowing the acidic stomach contents to flow back up into the unprotected esophagus. Certain foods and beverages can relax the muscle too much causing the acid to drift up into the esophagus. This is when the reflux from the stomach causes a burning sensation. If this happens only rarely, it’s usually not a problem. But if it is occurring consistently more than twice a week, it is advised to go see your physician to get an accurate diagnosis. Experiencing heartburn is not only unpleasant and annoying but the strong stomach acid splashing back up into the esophagus can do permanent damage to the lining of the esophagus that could possibly lead to Barrett’s Esophagus or even esophageal cancer.
Many people will rely on antacids for treating heartburn. Antacids are designed to temporarily relieve pain caused by heartburn by neutralizing stomach acid for a while. But frequent use of antacids can reduce the stomach’s normal acidity. When this happens, the stomach responds by producing more acid to restore the normal acid condition. Also, ingredients in antacids can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Instead of becoming reliant on medications, there are more natural methods to at least try to see if they can reduce or eliminate the frequency of it. Here are eight natural lifestyle and diet changes that can help keep heartburn in check:
1. Avoid certain foods
Certain foods are well known for triggering heartburn. Typically people think of spicy and greasy foods as the main culprits and they can be but there are other lesser-known culprits that also can cause that burning pain – alcohol, coffee, citrus, soda, tomatoes, onions, chocolate, and peppermint.
2. Eat small meals
You’re asking for trouble if you eat large meals or portion sizes. Instead, eat smaller meals rather than big meals. Not only will your stomach thank you for that but so will your waistline.
3. Lose weight
The heavier you are, the more pressure that puts on your stomach which can result in a greater chance of stomach acid pushing back up into the esophagus. Losing some weight can help reduce that chance of this happening.
4. Don’t lay down after a meal
Don’t be tempted to want to go lay down right after eating a meal – bad idea. Let gravity help move your food in the right direction by staying upright for at least one hour preventing making heartburn any worse. Stop eating at least three hours before going to bed at night.
5. Avoid tight-fitting clothing
Wearing too tight of fitting clothing not only doesn’t look good on anyone but tight-fitting clothing and belts put pressure on the stomach and may cause food to reflux back up into the esophagus.
6. Quit smoking
Here is one more good reason to kick the habit – it can increase heartburn. Enough said.
7. Reduce stress
For some people, stress may increase stomach acids leading to heartburn. Learning relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga can lead to more feelings of being in control.
8. Chew gum
Sugar-free gum helps your mouth produce saliva which neutralizes stomach acids and aids in digestion.