Once you’ve seen your doctor, to help reduce or prevent heartburn symptoms, try these lifestyle changes:
- Don’t Crash After a Meal
“Late-night meals are one of the biggest offenders when it comes to heartburn,” Starpoli says. It’s a simple matter of physics: Lying down soon after a big meal will cause the contents of your stomach to push harder against the lower esophageal sphincter, the valvelike muscle between your stomach and esophagus, which can lead to stomach acid flowing back up into your esophagus and causing heartburn. To avoid heartburn symptoms, wait at least two hours after you eat before you lie down.
- Elevate Your Head
The same review article also pointed out that raising the head of your bed helps discourage heartburn. How? Sleeping with your head raised about six inches higher than your stomach can help prevent digested food from backing up into your esophagus and stave off heartburn symptoms. “Put a 6-by-6-inch piece of wood at the head of your bed or use an adjustable bed to provide the elevation,” Starpoli suggests. You can also place bricks, books, or blocks at the head of your bed or use a wedge-shaped pillow under your mattress. Just popping another pillow under your head won’t do the trick — it’s too easy for your head to slide off while you sleep.
- Watch Your Weight
“Obesity is an independent risk factor for acid reflux,” Starpoli says. “If your BMI puts you in the overweight or obese category, you are automatically more prone to heartburn.” Commit to keeping your weight under control with a healthy diet that’s low in fat and processed foods, and talk to your doctor about starting an exercise program.
- Keep Clothes Loose and Comfortable
Wearing tight clothes may contribute to heartburn symptoms. Tight waistbands and belts can put pressure on your stomach and increase the chances of stomach contents backing up into your esophagus and causing heartburn.
- Don’t Smoke
Yet another reason to quit smoking: Fewer heartburn symptoms. “Smoking does a number of different things to cause heartburn, including promoting acid secretion and loosening the esophageal sphincter,” Starpoli says.
- Exercise Smartly
Regular exercise is a must for overall health, but if you hit the gym too soon after eating, heartburn symptoms can bring your workout to a halt. “If you don’t allow your stomach to properly empty before you exercise, food can back up into your esophagus and cause heartburn,” Starpoli says. He also advises against doing too many crunches or sit-ups if you’re heartburn-prone because they can increase intra-abdominal pressure, which acts much like wearing clothes that are too tight. Great anti-heartburn exercises are activities that don’t toss or bounce your stomach around too much, and that can also reduce stress and promote relaxation, such as yoga or tai chi. Just be sure to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program or revising your existing exercise program.