Diseases & Conditions

Preventing & Managing Heartburn

Preventing and managing your heartburn

You can get relief and prevent heartburn by making changes in your diet and lifestyle. The first things to try are the following:

  • Don't go to bed with a full stomach. Eat meals at least 3 to 4 hours before lying down — the added time will give acid levels a chance to decrease before putting your body in a position where heartburn is more likely to occur.
  • Don't overeat. Decrease the size of portions at meal times, or try eating 4 to 5 small meals instead of 3 large ones.
  • Eat slowly. Take time to eat – don’t rush. Try putting your fork down between bites.
  • Wear looser-fitting clothes.

You may want to try other approaches, in which you

  • Avoid the foods and beverages that trigger your heartburn symptoms or relax the sphincter muscle. (These may include onions, peppermint, chocolate, caffeine-containing beverages and foods, citrus fruits or juices, tomatoes, or high-fat foods). A good way to figure out what foods cause your symptoms is to keep a heartburn diary.
  • Shed some pounds. If you are overweight, losing weight by following a healthy weight loss plan can help relieve your symptoms.
  • Stop smoking. Nicotine can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter, the muscle that controls the opening between the esophagus and stomach and prevents the acid-containing contents of the stomach from entering the esophagus.
  • Avoid alcohol. If your aim is to unwind after a stressful day, try exercise, walking, meditation, stretching, or deep breathing instead of drinking.
  • Drink warm liquids, such as herbal tea.
  • Keep track of when heartburn hits and the specific activities that seem to trigger the incidents.

If your heartburn is worse when lying down

  • Try sleeping on the left side, if your heartburn comes on when you lie down. This may help digestion and the removal of acid from the stomach more quickly.
  • Raise the head of your bed so that your head and chest are higher than your feet. You can do this by placing 6-inch blocks under the bed posts at the head of the bed. Don't use piles of pillows to achieve the same goal; this may only put your head at an angle that can increase pressure on your stomach and make your heartburn worse.
  • Eat earlier. Try not to eat within 3 to 4 hours before you go to sleep.

If your heartburn worsens after exercise

  • Time your meals. Wait at least 2 hours after a meal before exercising. If you work out any sooner, you may trigger heartburn.
  • Drink more water. Drink plenty of water before and during exercise. Water aids digestion and also prevents dehydration.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 11/20/2013...#9616