11 Ways to Prevent Heartburn and Acid Reflux
Heartburn and Acid reflux can cause discomfort and pain in the chest area, but you can possibly prevent or lessen the symptoms with simple lifestyle changes. These changes include having dinner earlier, adjusting your sleep position, and avoiding certain acidic foods and beverages.
Heartburn is a common condition that affects up to 28% of adults in North America, known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It occurs when stomach acid moves up into the esophagus, causing the burning sensation.
Although medications are commonly used to treat acid reflux and heartburn, modifying your lifestyle can also help you reduce symptoms and improve your quality of life. In fact, scientific research supports 14 natural ways to reduce acid reflux and heartburn.
- Chew gum: Previous studies suggest that chewing gum can potentially decrease acidity in the esophagus (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).Gum that contains bicarbonate has shown to be particularly effective as it can neutralize acid and prevent reflux (5Trusted Source). Furthermore, chewing gum can stimulate the production of saliva, which may aid in clearing acid from the esophagus (6Trusted Source).However, additional research is necessary to determine the efficacy of chewing gum in treating acid reflux or alleviating symptoms of heartburn.
- Sleeping on your left side: Studies have suggested that sleeping on your right side could exacerbate reflux symptoms at night (7Trusted Source, 8). On the other hand, lying on your left side might reduce acid exposure in the esophagus by as much as 71% (8). This may be due to the fact that the esophagus enters the right side of the stomach, so when you sleep on your left side, the lower esophageal sphincter sits above the level of stomach acid. In contrast, when you lie on your right side, stomach acid covers the lower esophageal sphincter, increasing the risk of reflux. While sleeping entirely on your left side throughout the night may not be feasible, it could still help you feel more comfortable as you fall asleep.
- Elevating the head of your bed: Reflux symptoms during the night can affect sleep quality and make it harder to fall asleep (9Trusted Source). Raising the head of your bed could help relieve acid reflux symptoms and improve sleep quality (9Trusted Source). In one review of four studies, elevating the head of the bed was found to reduce acid reflux and improve symptoms such as heartburn and regurgitation in individuals with GERD (10Trusted Source). Another study showed that using a wedge to elevate the upper body while sleeping resulted in less acid reflux compared to sleeping flat (7Trusted Source).
- Having dinner earlier: Healthcare providers often recommend that individuals with acid reflux avoid eating within three hours before bedtime. Lying down after a meal can make digestion more challenging, potentially worsening GERD symptoms. Late-night meals have been linked to a 5% increase in acid exposure when lying down, as opposed to eating earlier in the evening, according to one review (11Trusted Source). In another study involving 817 individuals with type 2 diabetes, eating dinner late at night was associated with a higher risk of acid reflux (12Trusted Source). However, more research is necessary to establish solid conclusions about the effects of late-night meals on GERD. The impact of eating timing may also vary from person to person.
- Cooked onions: instead of raw onions Raw onions are known to trigger acid reflux and heartburn. They contain fermentable fiber, which may increase gas production and irritate the lining of the esophagus. If you experience worsened heartburn after eating raw onions, try switching to cooked onions instead.
- Smaller, more frequent meals: Eating large meals can put pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter, causing acid to leak into the esophagus. To reduce symptoms of acid reflux, try eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day.
- Maintain a moderate weight: Excess belly fat can increase pressure on the abdomen and push the lower esophageal sphincter upward, leading to acid reflux. Losing at least 10% of your body weight can significantly decrease symptoms of GERD, according to some studies. Speak with a healthcare professional to determine if weight loss is right for you.
- Low carb diet: Low carb diets may help relieve acid reflux symptoms by reducing undigested carbs in the digestive system, which can cause bacterial overgrowth and increased pressure on the abdomen. While more research is needed, some studies suggest that low carb diets could improve reflux symptoms.
- Moderate your alcohol consumption: Alcohol consumption may exacerbate acid reflux and heartburn symptoms.Studies suggest that higher alcohol intake could be linked to increased severity of acid reflux symptoms (33Trusted Source, 34Trusted Source). Alcohol worsens symptoms by increasing stomach acid production, relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter, and impairing the esophagus’ ability to clear out acid (35Trusted Source). While more research is necessary, older studies indicate that drinking wine or beer may increase reflux symptoms, particularly when compared to consuming plain water (36Trusted Source, 37Trusted Source).
- Reduce your alcohol consumption: Consuming alcohol can worsen the symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn, as it increases stomach acid and relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, which prevents acid from flowing back up into the esophagus (33Trusted Source, 34Trusted Source, 35Trusted Source).Although some older studies suggest that drinking wine or beer could exacerbate reflux symptoms, newer research is needed to confirm this (36Trusted Source, 37Trusted Source). However, if you experience heartburn after drinking alcohol, it’s best to limit your intake or avoid it altogether. Additionally, coffee can also relax the lower esophageal sphincter and potentially increase the risk of acid reflux (38Trusted Source, 39Trusted Source). While some studies have found no significant effects of coffee on GERD symptoms, others have linked coffee consumption to more severe acid damage in the esophagus (40Trusted Source). Therefore, if you notice that coffee worsens your symptoms, it may be best to reduce your intake or avoid it
- Reduce your consumption of carbonated beverages: Drinking carbonated beverages, such as soft drinks, club soda, and seltzer, may also increase the risk of acid reflux and worsen its symptoms (41Trusted Source, 42Trusted Source). This is because the carbon dioxide in these drinks causes you to burp more often, which can push stomach acid up into the esophagus (44Trusted Source).A study found that carbonated soft drinks, in particular, can exacerbate certain acid reflux symptoms, such as heartburn, fullness, and burping (43). Therefore, if you have GERD, it’s recommended to limit your intake of carbonated beverages. Visit healthline.com for more health infos
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