Managing Your Heartburn
The common condition known as heartburn actually has nothing to do with the heart. According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s a burning sensation in your chest, just behind your breastbone. Heartburn, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), occurs when stomach contents back up into your esophagus. You may also, Mayo says, feel a sour taste and the sensation of food coming back into your mouth. All this usually happens after you eat a meal, and it may happen at night. If you are lying down, the pain can be worse.
Occasional heartburn is common and no cause for alarm. But, Mayo says, heartburn that interferes with daily activities may be due to something more serious that requires your checking with your doctor.
According to an article written for the Mayo Clinic News Network, here’s what you can do to manage the condition:
Maintain a healthy weight. Excess pounds put pressure on your abdomen, causing acid to back up into your esophagus. If you’re overweight, work to lose one or two pounds per week. Ask your doctor about what weight-loss strategy is best for you.
Don’t wear tight-fitting clothes. They put pressure on your stomach and the lower esophageal sphincter.
Avoid foods and drinks that trigger heartburn. These often include fried or fatty foods, tomato sauce, chocolate, mint, garlic and caffeine. But you may have your own triggers.
Eat smaller meals.
Don’t lie down after a meal. Wait at least three hours after eating before lying down or going to bed.
Elevate the head of your bed. If you regularly experience heartburn at night or while trying to sleep, put wood or cement blocks under the feet of your bed so that the head end is raised by 6 to 9 inches. If it’s not possible to elevate your bed, you can insert a wedge between your mattress and box spring to elevate your body from the waist up. You can buy these at drugstores and medical supply stores. But, Mayo cautions, it’s not effective to raise your head with only additional pillows.
Use over-the-counter acids occasionally. But try to avoid prolonged use. Talk with your doctor about what antacid is right for you, and how long you should use it.
Don’t smoke. Smoking decreases the lower esophageal sphincter’s ability to function.
Know when to see a doctor
Seek immediate help if you experience severe chest pain or pressure, especially when combined with other signs and symptoms such as pain in the arm or jaw, or difficulty breathing. Chest pain may be a symptom of a heart attack. Make an appointment with your doctor if:
Heartburn occurs more than twice a week.
Symptoms persist despite use of over-the-counter medications.
You have difficulty swallowing.
You have persistent nausea or vomiting.
You have weight loss because of poor appetite or difficulty eating.