Almost everyone has experienced temporary heartburn after a large or spicy meal. Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux, along with partial regurgitation and a sour taste in your mouth.
If you have frequent acid reflux, come see Dr. Darrien Gaston at Metropolitan Gastroenterology Consultants in Chicago, Illinois. As a board-certified internist, he specializes in diagnosing and treating problems with your internal organs, including your digestive tract, and he can help you get rid of your painful acid reflux.
Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to prevent heartburn on your own. Here are some practical tips to keep stomach acid where it belongs.
Some foods tend to create more stomach acid than others during the digestive process. Simply cutting these out of your diet, or at least cutting back on them, may make a difference in your heartburn frequency and intensity. These foods include:
For some people, mint also seems to be a heartburn trigger, so you may need to avoid mint-flavored toothpaste, mouthwash, gum, candy, and food.
Fried and fatty foods may end up on your list of ousted foods as well, because they lengthen the time it takes for your stomach to empty.
In addition to what you eat, you may need to manage how you eat. Large meals fill your stomach and put pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) at the bottom of your esophagus. Heartburn occurs when acid pushes past that sphincter and enters your esophagus, so eating smaller meals may prevent heartburn.
Also, eating late at night and too close to bedtime can lead to heartburn because if you lie down soon after a meal, the horizontal position makes it more difficult to digest your food. To aid digestion, eat dinner at least 2-3 hours before you lie down or go to bed.
What side do you sleep on? If you sleep on your right side, it may contribute to your heartburn problem.
Because your esophagus enters your stomach on the right side, the acid level in your stomach covers the LES and makes acid reflux more likely. However, if you lie on your left side, the LES is situated above the stomach acid, and studies show that simply sleeping on the left side improved acid reflux symptoms in 71% of people with acid reflux.
Elevating your head while you sleep can also reduce your heartburn, especially the nighttime episodes that wake you up and ruin your sleep quality.
Although thin people can experience heartburn for various reasons, one of the main contributors to acid reflux is overweight and obesity. This is because excess abdominal fat puts pressure on your LES.
Normally, your diaphragm is there to add support and strength to the LES, but if extra fat pushes the LES away from the diaphragm, you could develop a hiatal hernia, a condition where the upper part of your stomach tissue pushes through your diaphragm and enters your chest cavity. Hiatal hernias are the leading cause of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a chronic form of acid reflux.
You know that smoking is bad for your health on so many levels, but it may also be part of your heartburn problem because smoking:
If you smoke and need help kicking the habit, Dr. Gaston can help.
Over-the-counter antacids may help with occasional heartburn, but they aren’t meant to become a part of your regular diet. If you experience acid reflux twice a week or more, you may have GERD, which can't be controlled by antacids alone.
If you need next-level help to manage your acid reflux, Dr. Gaston may prescribe medications to reduce stomach acid, such as H-2 receptor blockers, or medications that reduce acid and help heal your esophagus, such as proton pump inhibitors. A medication called baclofen may also help heal and strengthen your LES.
If you have frequent heartburn — don’t ignore it. Over time, it can damage your esophagus and lead to complications, including cancer. To get effective treatment for acid reflux and GERD, call us or book an appointment online today.