10 Tips to Prevent Heartburn

heartburnYou’ve just finished chowing down a super-sized pile of nachos loaded with cheese, beef, sour cream, guacamole, and spicy jalapenos. Then you wash it down with a tall frosty beer. Whoa, and suddenly you feel it, a burning in your chest and in your throat. Maybe even some nasty tasting sour fluid starts to build at the back of your throat. Oh yeah, you’ve just created the perfect recipe for heartburn.

Heartburn, also known as Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a huge drag. Not only is it uncomfortable, but constant heart burn can do some real damage to your long term health. To give us some accurate information about what causes heartburn, and how to prevent it, we asked our registered dietitian, Laura, to give us some tips from a pro! Take it away, Laura!

What causes heartburn?

Meet registered dietician, Laura

Meet registered dietitian, Laura

The burning sensation you are feeling after the nacho and beer fest, is stomach acid splashing up into your esophagus.  You may have a hunch that the route from esophagus to stomach is designed to be a one-way route. There is a valve that seals off the stomach from the esophagus, when you get heartburn, somehow that valve is not staying closed and stomach fluids are going the wrong way!

Some of the causes of heartburn are actual physical pressure on the abdomen (such as extra weight around the mid-section or tight clothing), high fat meals, large portions, as well as certain foods and substances that decrease the pressure of the valve between the stomach and esophagus.

Obviously standing on your head after eating makes the one way route go in reverse…but less obvious may be that lying down within 2-3 hours of eating, or bending over after eating will increase heartburn symptoms if you have them. 

What You Can Do? 

For some individuals, medical treatment is the only thing that reduces the symptoms. But for the majority of us, taking charge of our lifestyle and making some of the following changes can eliminate heartburn and the need for a daily medication that has potential long-term health consequences. Being overweight or obese, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, eating large meals and eating close to bedtime all increase your likelihood of having heartburn.

Here are 10 tips that will help you prevent or eliminate heartburn:

1) Eat small portions.

Eating too much at one sitting can make heartburn worse. Check in with your hunger, if you feel comfortable stop eating before you wind up stuffed. Try putting down your utensil between each bite.

2) Take time to relax and enjoy your meal.

Eating slowly allows you to stop eating before you are too full. And remember the advice you got when you were young – chew your food – it improves digestion.

3) Drink mostly between meals rather than with them.

Drinks add volume in your stomach so just sip during mealtime.

4) Lose weight.

If you’re overweight, losing even a small amount of weight can help relieve symptoms and control heartburn. On the flip side, gaining weight, even if you’re in a healthy weight range increases heartburn symptoms.

5) Exercise.

Moderate activities such as brisk walking can improve health, digestion and help you reach and maintain a healthy weight. But intense activity especially with bouncing or jiggling can increase heartburn symptoms.

6) Choose lower-fat foods.

High-fat meals slow digestion and also seem to weaken the closure between the esophagus and stomach. Rather than eating fried foods, deep-dish pizzas, fatty steaks, and cheese covered Mexican dishes switch to lean protein (skinless poultry, seafood, beans and lean cuts of red meat) and fiber-rich produce and whole grains.

7) Avoid the “usual suspects.”

Certain foods have been found to trigger heartburn in some individuals: alcohol, caffeine chocolate, mints and mint flavored items, citrus juices and fruits, tomatoes and tomato sauce, spicy foods, onions, garlic and carbonated beverages.  If any of these trigger heartburn, steer clear!

8) Walk after a meal.

Stand up and walk around after eating to encourage the gastric juices to flow in the right direction. Try to avoid eating for at least 2 hours before bedtime, laying down after eating increases heartburn symptoms and can cause serious sleep disruptions, leaving you tired and depleted during the day.

9) If you smoke, get some support and set up a plan to quit. Nicotine relaxes the connection between the esophagus and the stomach.  Cigarettes also increase acid production in the stomach.

10) Listen to your body. 

If your body doesn’t react well to a certain food or drink, try to find something else to substitute.

Try these out and you might just end up with the perfect recipe to be heartburn free!

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2 Comments

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