The pain and discomfort in the chest that comes with heartburn can get in the way of daily life, limiting what you eat, interrupting sleep and disrupting your daily routine. The good news is most people are able to manage heartburn with changes to their lifestyle and over-the-counter medications.
Heartburn (sometimes called indigestion or acid reflux) is that painful, burning sensation you get in your chest when stomach acid escapes (or refluxes) back up into your oesophagus (the tube connecting your throat and stomach).
There are a number of things that can trigger heartburn or worsen its severity. It is a good idea to keep track of your personal heartburn triggers so you can avoid them or be prepared for when they strike. In the meantime, below are some tips that may be helpful in relieving or preventing heartburn.
Foods to avoid
Eating spicy, acidic or fatty foods, or drinking too much alcohol or lots of caffeinated or carbonated drinks can trigger heartburn in some people. Some of these foods can affect the muscle ring (or sphincter) at the top of the stomach that stops fluids refluxing back up the oesophagus and irritating the oesophagus lining.
If food is one of your heartburn triggers, try keeping a diary to identify which particular foods are causing you problems so you can limit or avoid them.
Don’t overeat – heartburn often occurs after a big meal, so try reducing your portion sizes or eating more frequent smaller meals.
Acid reflux at night
Heartburn symptoms often get worse when you lie down – which means sleeping at night can be a problem for some people. Changing how and when you sleep may make a difference.
- Avoid lying down soon after a meal or drink – try and leave about 3 hours after a meal before going to bed
- Try elevating the head of your bed if heartburn symptoms occur at night
Having a healthy lifestyle – eating the right foods, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising – is good advice for everyone. But if heartburn is a problem you may want to remember:
- When you exercise bending movements can make the discomfort of heartburn worse
- Avoid eating or drinking before exercising
- Being overweight can put increased pressure on your stomach, so losing weight may help manage heartburn symptoms
- Don’t smoke as it can affect the sphincter muscle’s ability to prevent reflux
Take some time to understand your heartburn triggers and learn how to avoid the discomfort of heartburn and acid reflux with some simple lifestyle changes. If these changes don’t help or you just can’t avoid them, then using over-the-counter medicines (such as Zantac) taken as directed can be helpful in providing relief from heartburn symptoms.
ALWAYS READ THE LABEL. USE ONLY AS DIRECTED. IF SYMPTOMS PERSIST, SEE YOUR HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL.