Heartburn can be very painful and uncomfortable. Sometimes the pain is so severe that you might think you are having a heart attack from the intense chest pains that you experience. Bloating, gas and searing pain are other symptoms of heartburn.
Heartburn is characterized as a burning sensation that starts in your chest, but it can also extend to your throat, neck and face as well. It is a very common condition among adults these days. Over one third of the U.S population suffers from heartburn on an occasional basis.
There are also approximately 50 million Americans who get heartburn on a frequent or regular basis.
Heartburn takes place when acids in the stomach move up into the esophagus, which is the tube that connects the stomach with the throat. The lower esophageal sphincter is right above the stomach. Usually the sphincter is closed tightly, and only opens to allow food to pass through from the esophagus to the stomach.
However, if the lower esophageal sphincter fails to completely close or opens at the wrong time, stomach acids can back up into the esophagus, which causes heartburn.
Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to help prevent heartburn from ever occurring. Most of these actions have to do with making some healthy lifestyle changes, which means you will not only be helping to prevent heartburn but also improving your overall health in the process. This is very good news to know that you can actually take steps to help prevent this problem from ever happening to you.
One thing to keep in mind is that certain steps may help one person better than another individual. For example, eating certain foods may cause heartburn in one person but not another.
Fortunately, we have plenty of options below for you to choose from. So if one doesn’t work for you, just simply try a different method to see if that one helps you.
The following are 13 steps you can take to help prevent heartburn before it even has a chance to start:
1. Change Your Diet
Avoid foods that are known to cause heartburn and eat healthy alternatives instead.
In general, refined carbohydrates, sugars and processed foods are very unhealthy and can cause heartburn. Having too many carbohydrates in your stomach can cause them to ferment and give off gases. This increases the pressure on your stomach and can lead to gas, bloating and heartburn.
Some of the foods that are most likely to cause heartburn include:
- 1. Spicy foods
- 2. Fatty foods
- 3. Acidic foods, such as citrus and tomatoes
- 4. Caffeinated beverages
- 5. Coffee
- 6. Carbonated beverages
- 7. Onions
- 8. Chocolate
- 9. Mint
Some foods may cause heartburn for some people but not others. One of the best ways to determine if certain foods are causing you heartburn is to keep a food journal. Note when heartburn symptoms occur and check to see what you ate that day to see if there are any potential correlations.
Focus on eating the following types of foods instead:
Eat Healthy Protein and Fats
Healthy protein and fats are excellent sources of protein and help to reduce cravings for refined carbs and sugar. Protein helps with driving digestion and healthy fats provide the digestive tract with anti-inflammatory effects.
Healthy protein and fats include:
- 1. Meat from pastured and wild animals (chicken, turkey, lean beef)
- 2. Wild fish
- 3. Pastured, organic eggs
- 4. Cultured and raw dairy
- 5. Whole seeds and nuts
- 6. High quality oils (extra virgin olive oil, palm oil, coconut oil)
Eat Fermented Foods and Drinks
Fermented foods and drinks are very beneficial to the intestines and stomach, which helps with digestion. Fermented foods are full of beneficial bacteria that populates inside the digestive tract. The following fermented foods can provide your body with a digestive boost:
- 1. Kimchi
- 2. Pickled beets
- 3. Pickles
- 4. Sauerkraut
You can also drink the following fermented beverages:
- 1. Pickle juice
- 2. Beet kvass
- 3. Milk kefir
- 4. Kombucha
2. Consider a Gluten-Free Diet
There have been studies that indicate that gluten, which is found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley, might exacerbate or cause heartburn. Gluten is a complex protein. It can be hard to digest, and this process is made even more difficult if your digestive system is already compromised.
In addition, hybridization has dramatically altered wheat over time, which can be hard on our bodies. Americans in particular eat lots of gluten. It is found in our breads, cereals, pasta, crackers, cookies and many other foods that tend to be staples of our diets. You can try eliminating gluten out of your diet to see if that helps.
3. Lose Weight
People who are overweight tend to get heartburn more. Having extra fat around your stomach in particular puts pressure on the abdomen. This can push gastric juices up into the esophagus.
Following the advice in the previous two steps can help you keep your weight under control, but if you are seriously overweight you may need to take more drastic measures to lose those extra pounds to help prevent heartburn.
4. Eat Smaller Meals
When large meals are consumed in one sitting it puts pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter, which can cause heartburn. Instead of eating three large meals, you can try eating 4 to 6 smaller meals, or eating a couple of light snacks in between meals instead of consuming large quantities of food all at once.
5. Eat Slowly
Studies have shown that the risk of heartburn is increased by eating food too quickly. When you are eating a meal, take your time to help eliminate heartburn. You will also enjoy your food more if you do this. Chew each bite of food slowly.
To help slow yourself down as you are eating, try putting your utensils down in between bites. It can also help to sit at the kitchen or dining room table, instead of eating in at your desk or in front of the television set.
6. Stop Eating Food Three Hours Before Going to Bed
The last meal for the day should be eaten at least three hours prior to going to bed. This is because it takes your body two hours at least to digest food.
You want all of your food to be fully digested before laying down, which brings us to our next step.
7. Don’t Lie Down After You Eat
After consuming a meal, wait for three hours at least before lying down. Gravity helps to keep the acids inside your stomach. If you stretch out to go to sleep after eating, the natural effects of gravity are taken away.
This makes it more likely that stomach acid will press against your lower esophageal sphincter and flow up into your esophagus and cause heartburn. That is why you want to make sure to finish eating several hours before you go to bed.
8. Drink Herbal Tea After Eating a Meal
There have been studies that show that licorice and chamomile tea are effective in helping to prevent heartburn symptoms when consumed after eating a meal. Licorice and chamomile both have anti-inflammatory properties.
It has also been found that ginger is effective against heartburn, so ginger tea is another beverage you can drink after or even before a meal. It is very easy to make ginger tea. Just boil water and add a couple of slices of ginger to it. Allow the mixture to seep for half an hour before you drink it.
9. Quit Smoking
Studies have shown that nicotine may cause the muscles of the lower esophageal sphincter to relax, which can allow the acid in your stomach to flow up into your esophagus.
Smoking may also impair the ability of your saliva to clear acid from your esophagus. Smoking is very bad for your health anyway, so just quit!
10. Reduce Your Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol, like smoking, can relax the muscles of your lower esophageal sphincter or even cause spasms in the esophageal muscles. So if you are having heartburn issues, you may want to try reducing your consumption of alcoholic beverages to see if this helps provide some relief.
11. Wear Loose-Fitting and Comfortable Clothing
Belts and tight clothing may constrict your stomach, which in some cases can lead to heartburn. You want to be comfortable anyway, so avoid wearing tight clothing, especially around your stomach.
12. Raise Your Bed
Elevating the head portion of your bed up 6 to 8 inches can assist gravity so that the gastric acid stays inside your stomach. A wedge-shaped support can also be used. Just trying to use extra pillows to prop yourself only raises your head up. In order to get the relief you need from heartburn, your whole upper body needs to be elevated.
13. Review The Medications You are Taking
There are numerous medications that may increase your risk of developing heartburn. They may irritate your already inflamed esophagus, interfere with your digestive process or relax the muscles of the lower esophageal sphincter. The following are some of these medications:
- 1. Iron tablets
- 2. Potassium
- 3. Some antibiotics
- 4. Painkillers and sedatives
- 5. Bisphosphonates, which are taken to increase bone density
- 6. Anticholinergics, which are medications for treating conditions like glaucoma and season allergies.
- 7. Some asthma medications, including albuterol and other beta-agonists
- 8. Calcium channel blockers, which are used for treating high blood pressure.
- 9. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
If you happen to be taking any of the above medications, speak with your doctor. You may be able to switch to a different drug that doesn’t have the same effects on your upper digestive tract. Just be sure to consult with your doctor, and never stop taking prescribed medications on your own.
As you can see there are many different steps you can take to help prevent heartburn from occurring. Many of these are healthy lifestyle changes, such as altering your diet, which will not only help to prevent heartburn from ever occurring in the first place, but will also improve your overall health.
Many of these changes are quite simple to initiate and none of them involve taking dangerous drugs.
If you have been suffering from heartburn, you already know how painful and uncomfortable it can be. By making certain lifestyle changes, you can help to reduce your level of discomfort and improve your overall health and quality of life.
Although you may have to make a few sacrifices in terms of favorite foods you eat, the changes you make will be well worth it when you see how much better you feel. So try making a few of the changes suggested above to see what works for you. Your body will definitely thank you for it!