These 11 steps to heartburn prevention can reduce or even eliminate the need for natural heartburn remedies, OTC heartburn medication, and prescription heartburn medication. Knowledge of heartburn prevention measures will lead to a more enjoyable life and improve your long-term health.
Prevention is the best form of long-term protection from heartburn and though we don’t like to hear it prevention requires a change in lifestyle for most people. What we ingest, the exercise we get, and the stress we encounter are all factors that can contribute to heartburn and acid reflux.
1) Medical Exam
The first step is consulting with a gastroenterologist. A GI doctor is needed for diagnosing digestive issues. You may be creating too much stomach acid or too little. You could have a hiatal hernia repaired. A hiatal hernia can affect the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) causing an increased risk of acid reflux. There could be any number of things causing your problems.
What, when, and how we eat are all important in preventing heartburn and acid reflux. The primary root of heartburn is found in our foods and the management of that food. Are you surprised?! To correct your heartburn long-term, you must correct your diet.
What We Eat
Avoid or manage the ingestion of heartburn trigger foods. In addition to avoiding the heartburn trigger foods, adding more fiber to your diet can keep the digestive tract move at a good pace. The longer food remains in the stomach the more acid will be produced.
The healthier you eat the less like you will be to have heartburn. Avoiding processed food and sticking to natural foods is best.
What Order We Eat In
Foods that digest faster should be eaten first. This will help your stomach contents vacate faster, keep you from being as full, and cut down on acid levels in the stomach.
When We Eat
Eating at regular intervals during the day is helpful for managing heartburn. You should also fast for 2 or more hours before bedtime. This will allow meals to start the digestion process and eliminate the pressure from on the LES. This pressure is greatly increased when you are lying down. (See the 10 Ways to Eliminate Nighttime Heartburn if you are a nighttime heartburn sufferer.)
How We Eat
Eat slowly, take smaller bites, and chew properly. Many of us are rushed and eat too quickly. Slowing down is a big step in reducing heartburn. By properly chewing food, we reduce the amount of time and acid the stomach needs to break down food. Also, if you take the time to properly chew your food, you will produce more saliva which aids predigestion and acid reduction. The substance in saliva that helps reduce acid is bicarbonate.
Eating slower also helps give the body time to know when it’s full.
How Much We Eat
Being too full will cause pressure on the LES leading to acid reflux. Smaller meals are best when trying to avoid acid reflux. To keep hunger cravings down, you might consider eating smaller meals multiple times a day.
4) Stress Management
Stress can contribute to heartburn by prompting an increase in acid production, by disrupting proper LES function, and by causing increased sensitivity to acid. It’s virtually impossible to avoid stress, so stress management is the key here. Some ways to reduce stress are:
- Participate in enjoyable activities
- Listen to soothing music
- Stress management supplements
- Sex with a partner
5) Weight Loss
Lose weight. Excess weight places pressure on the LES which can cause it to open and even weaken over time. Failure of the LES to close properly will cause acid reflux.
Though exercise is important in reducing stress and weight loss, there are a time and place. It is best to wait 2-3 hours after meals before exercise. Waiting gives food time to digest. Many movements in exercise can cause the stomach contents to press on the LES. Remain upright after eating and limit motions that could cause pressure on the LES.
For additional articles on heartburn and exercise please see:
Know the positions to avoid to prevent acid reflux. Avoid lying down, reclining, and bending over after eating. Remaining upright until food has left the stomach prevents pressure on the LES, thus reducing the possibility of acid reflux.
8) Manage Medications
Food supplements, OTC medication, and prescription medications can contribute to or cause heartburn and acid reflux. It’s best to consult your doctor about your heartburn issue and treatment options that might not contribute to your heartburn and acid reflux issues. If you take medications or supplements, check to see if they should be taken with or without food. If medications taken in the evening are giving you nighttime heartburn, see if they can be taken in the morning instead.
Nicotine in any form can relax the LES allowing acid to reflux into the esophagus. This includes smoking tobacco, chewing tobacco, nicotine gum, and patches. Smoke also irritates the esophagus.
Tight fitting clothes can add to or cause heartburn to worsen. Tight clothing can place pressure on your abdomen, especially when sitting down causing food to be pushed up and press on the LES leading to acid reflux.
It is helpful to keeping a heartburn journal until you figure out your heartburn triggers… foods, eating times, clothing worn, activities, reclining after a meal, stresses, and any other things you feel may have caused your heartburn. It takes time and discipline to journal but can be well worth it if it helps pinpoint the issues that lead to your heartburn and acid reflux.