What Lifestyle Changes Help Manage Heartburn?

Heartburn, also called acid reflux, is when the muscles of your lower esophagus don't work right. This causes food and acids from the stomach to flow back -- or reflux -- into your esophagus.

Things like food and certain medications can aggravate it. To make symptoms easier:

Don't go to bed with a full stomach. Eat meals at least 2 to 3 hours before lying down. This will give food time to digest and get out of your stomach. Acid levels will also go down before you put your body in a position where heartburn is more likely.

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Don't overeat. Eat smaller portions at mealtimes, or try to eat four to five small meals instead of three big ones.

Eat slowly. Take time to eat. Put your fork down between bites.

Avoid heartburn triggers. Avoid foods and drinks that can bring on heartburn symptoms.

For example:

  • Onions
  • Peppermint
  • Chocolate
  • Beverages with caffeine
  • Citrus fruits or juices
  • Tomatoes
  • High-fat and spicy foods

A heartburn diary is a good way for you to figure out which foods cause your symptoms.

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Shed some pounds. If you are overweight, it can help you feel better.

Stop smoking. The nicotine in cigarettes can weaken a part of your body called your lower esophageal sphincter. That muscle controls the opening between your esophagus and your stomach. When it's closed, it keeps acid and other things in your stomach from going back up.

Avoid alcohol. If you want to unwind after a stressful day, try exercise, walking, meditation, stretching, or deep breathing instead of a drink.

Keep a diary or heartburn log. Jot down when your heartburn hits and the specific things you're doing when it comes.

Wearing loose-fitting clothes can also help.

If Your Heartburn Is Worse When Lying Down:

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Raise the head of your bed so that your head and chest are higher than your feet. Put 6-inch blocks under the bedposts at the head of your bed. Don't use piles of pillows. You'll put your head at an angle that can put more pressure on your stomach and make your heartburn worse.

Eat earlier. Try not to eat for at least 3 hours before you go to sleep.

If Your Heartburn Gets Worse After Exercise

Time your meals. Wait at least 2 hours after a meal to exercise. If you work out any sooner, you may get heartburn.

Drink more water. Have plenty before and during exercise.

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