Try These 4 Tricks to Quiet Heartburn

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If you have been popping antacids like candy lately, consider making some lifestyle changes. “We can definitely be proactive,” says clinical dietician Amy Freeman, RDN, of Ocala Health. Sometimes medical factors cause heartburn. “But we can control other things,” Freeman says.

Here are just a few lifestyle changes you can make to get your heartburn under control.

1. Lose weight

Being overweight “changes the pressure of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES),” says Freeman. This is the valve that keeps stomach juices from creeping up. Imagine the LES as a fist. If you make a tight fist, you can’t see daylight through it..But if the fist is loose, you can—just as a loose LES allows acid to pass through. “Being overweight lowers that pressure,” she says. “The extra body mass prevents the LES from closing.”

2. Keep a journal

Diaries aren’t just for angsty teenagers. Freeman recommends keeping both a food log and a record of symptoms. Tracking both can help you learn what sets your body off. “If I have my morning coffee every day but get rid of chocolate and pepper and that gets rid of my symptoms, I know there’s no need to eliminate coffee,” she says. You might be surprised at what you learn. “A lot of folks will say, ‘I can’t have this,’ but that may not be true for them. By keeping a food and symptoms log, they’ll find something more specific for them.” 

3. Skip the soda

In one study, people who consumed at least one carbonated beverage a day had a 30 percent increased risk of nighttime heartburn compared with those who didn't drink bubbly beverages. Bubbles and acids in fizzy drinks—which contribute to bloating—set the stage for heartburn.

4. Bump up your dinner

Avoid eating for at least three hours before bed, says Freeman. In another study, people who went to bed within 3 hours of dinner were 7.5 times more likely to have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) compared with people who waited for at least 4 hours after dining to go to bed.

If you’re still up and about while your stomach is working, “We’re not in that prone position and working against gravity,” Freeman says. More ways to make gravity your friend: Sit up straight while eating and consider raising the head of your bed.

Fanning the flames

Almost everyone experiences heartburn at some point in his or her life. And more than 40 percent of people in the United States have heartburn at least once a month. About 10 percent of us get it daily (ouch). Whatever bucket you fall into, take heed if heartburn becomes more than an occasional annoyance. Chronic heartburn could be a sign of GERD—a condition that, when left untreated, increases the risk of esophageal cancer.

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