It doesn't hurt to take a time-out now and again. Whether it's just to relax or to stock up on heartburn management tips.
You've heard about waiting a half hour after you eat before doing anything active, like swimming? The same goes with heartburn. Take your time to enjoy and digest your meal. If you get takeout and wolf down some fast food in the car in heavy traffic, you're increasing your chance of heartburn. Any kind of stress like the stress of traffic can affect the way food moves through the digestive system. These movement issues can cause acidic stomach contents to linger in the stomach, allowing more time for the acid to work its way up the esophagus.1,3 Order something healthy and take your time eating it. Eat with friends and chat for a while afterward. Call a friend or take a peaceful walk if you're alone.
Exercise not only helps to relieve stress that can lead to more heartburn, it can decrease heartburn symptoms as well. Physical activity helps to keep the digestive system moving like it should. And we don't mean 100 sit-ups, which might actually aggravate heartburn. A 20-minute jog or even a short stroll around the block is better than reclining on the couch in front of the TV. Overexercising can cause other health issues, so be sure to talk to a doctor or personal trainer before beginning or changing your exercise plan.
Not only is nicotine a stimulant, but cigarette smoking may actually contribute to heartburn. Cigarette smoking causes the muscle between the esophagus and stomach to relax. When this muscle relaxes, it allows the acidic contents of the stomach to splash back into the esophagus — causing heartburn.
Eating 2-3 hours before bedtime allows enough time for your food to be mostly digested before lying down. In general, it's best to avoid a heavy meal and spicy foods too close to bedtime.
Placing 4- to 6-inch blocks under the legs at the head of your bed can help put gravity to work for you. If it's not possible to elevate your bed, you can insert a wedge between your mattress and box spring to elevate your body from the waist up. Wedges are available at drugstores and medical supply stores.
Salivation and swallowing are much less during sleep, so pills taken at night are more likely to stick in the throat or esophagus. Pills that do not pass completely into the stomach can irritate the lining of the esophagus, make the stomach more acidic, or loosen the valve that usually prevents acid from backing up the esophagus.
If all of this is simply not enough, consider taking an over-the-counter medication like Prevacid®24HR to treat frequent heartburn. Prevacid®24HR prevents acid that causes frequent heartburn for a full 24 hours.
1 National Heartburn Alliance, "Sufferers Point to Stress as an Aggravator of Heartburn"
2 National Library of Medicine, "Heartburn"
3 National Heartburn Alliance, "Nighttime Heartburn"
4 American Geriatrics Society, "Disorders of the Digestive System: Heartburn"