Managing heartburn

Let these 5 tips help you ban the burn

Ugh. You’ve finished eating — and that familiar pain is rising up in your chest and throat. You have heartburn again.

Why does this keep happening?

The problem lies with the opening from your esophagus to your stomach. In a perfect world, this opening closes as soon as food passes through it. But in some people, it doesn’t always close tightly or quickly enough to stop stomach juices from rising up. That’s why heartburn is sometimes called acid reflux — or just reflux.

The pain you feel occurs when acidic stomach juices come into contact with the lining of your esophagus.

6 tips to fight the blaze.

Heartburn is an uncomfortable price to pay for any meal. If you experience heartburn regularly or more often than you’d like, here are some helpful steps you can take:

  1. Don’t play with fire. Limit or avoid foods that bring on the burn for you. These can include spicy or greasy foods, as well as alcohol, chocolate, citrus, coffee and tomato-based foods.
  2. Nibble vs. gobble. Eat smaller, more frequent meals instead of 3 large ones.
  3. Stay upright. Avoid eating 2 to 3 hours before going to bed — or even lying down. This can decrease the amount of acid in your stomach available for reflux when you do lie down.
  4. Snooze on a slope. Use a foam wedge to raise the head of your mattress 6 to 10 inches so that you’re sleeping at a slight angle. Extra pillows don’t do the trick — and may be hard on your neck too.
  5. Lose excess weight. Extra fat can add pressure on your abdomen, making you more prone to heartburn. Weight loss can take effort — but it can be a rewarding and enjoyable journey.
  6. Know that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Tobacco use can contribute to heartburn, including relaxing the muscle between the esophagus and stomach. If you need help stopping, talk with your doctor. 

What about antacids?

When heartburn flares up, you might try antacids and other over-the-counter heartburn medicines to get relief. Talk with your doctor about what type of medicine may be best for you — and use them only as directed.

What to do next

If you can’t find relief from frequent heartburn, see your doctor. It’s more than just a painful annoyance. It could be gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or another serious condition.

GERD is a more severe and longer-lasting form of reflux that can damage the lining of your esophagus. It can cause problems swallowing and breathing. It’s even linked to a form of cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be experiencing GERD.


American College of Gastroenterology; National Institutes of Health