The odds are that you or someone you know experiences heartburn. Around half of North American adults experience it at least once per month. Somewhere between 10%-20% have it at least once per week! Heartburn, also known as acid reflux, occurs when the strong acid in your stomach creeps into your esophagus.
It can feel like a burning sensation; hence the name “heartburn.” Other common symptoms include bloating, burping, difficulty swallowing or a sore throat. Often there is a bitter or sour taste as well. Don’t get me wrong, stomach acid is good. Stomach acid is essential for good health and optimal digestion.
We need the acid in our stomach to protect us against harmful microbes (such as bacteria) that lurk in our food and drinks. Stomach acid also helps us break down our food and digest nutrients. But we need that acid to stay in the stomach and not get up to our esophagus.
Stomach acid doesn’t usually burn the stomach itself; this is because the stomach is protected by a layer of mucus.
But your esophagus doesn’t have that same protection. It has a valve that is supposed to prevent things from going the wrong way (for example to keep food, drink and acid down and not allow it back up). And when your esophagus is exposed to stomach acid too often, it can cause a burning sensation, inflammation and other potential issues.
Interestingly, pregnant women are likely to experience heartburn. This is because progesterone, which relaxes the muscles during pregnancy also relax the stomach valve responsible for keeping acid out of the esophagus. Also as the uterus grows, it presses on the stomach, forcing acid into the esophagus.
A hormone shift in women such as fluctuating estrogen levels may cause women to experience heartburn. And weight gain, too, may bring about symptoms of acid reflux.
Medications that women tend to take also can trigger heartburn symptoms and irritate the esophagus. Examples include: certain antibiotics for urinary tract infections and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Be sure to check with your physician on how best to take your medicines.
Today I’m going to share a bunch of tips that may help you overcome your heartburn symptoms naturally. Of course, if symptoms last for a long time or get worse, it’s probably a good idea to see your doctor.
Tip #1 – Foods to eat (and avoid)
You may notice that when you eat or drink certain things, you get heartburn soon afterward. These triggers may be different for everyone, but often they include onions, garlic, chocolate, citrus, tomato, mint, spicy foods, greasy foods, coffee, carbonated drinks or alcohol. If any of these affect you, reduce them or even try cutting them out to see if it makes a difference.
Heartburn may also result from a sneaky food intolerance. Try eliminating grains, dairy and processed foods for a few weeks, and see if that helps.
Now, you may be wondering what to replace the foods and drinks with that you’ve eliminated.
Try increasing fiber intake. Yes, this means more whole, unprocessed foods, especially vegetables. In fact, potatoes may be a great addition to meals if you suffer from heartburn. Try getting at least five servings of veggies every day.
Tip #2 – How and when to eat
Eat slowly. Use meal times to release stress. Chew your food very well. Don’t eat meals that are too big.
And don’t eat too close to bedtime. You want to avoid lying down with a full stomach. We’re talking finishing eating 2-3 hours before lying down. So schedule your dinner or snack with this in mind.
Tip #3 – Lifestyle techniques
Sometimes strenuous exercise can make heartburn symptoms worse. If this happens to you, then focus on low-intensity exercises like walking and cycling.
If symptoms come on as you’re lying down to sleep, try adding a pillow or two beneath your head so that it’s a bit higher than your stomach.
Another interesting tip is to try sleeping on your left side. Lying on your left side works because the valve that prevents the acid from “leaking” into your esophagus is located on the right side of the stomach. Therefore when you’re lying on your left, the acid is away from that valve.
Try these simple, natural strategies. They can help prevent or relieve your heartburn symptoms.
Now, we’d like to hear from you. Do you suffer from heartburn? What have you tried to rid yourself of the symptoms? Has what you’ve tried worked? Please comment below, and share your experience and suggestions with us.