When should I call my doctor about my heartburn?

Even though heartburn is common, it can sometimes lead to more serious health problems. Severe, chronic heartburn/GERD has been linked to inflammation and narrowing of the esophagus, respiratory problems, chronic cough, and Barrett’s esophagus, which may lead to esophageal cancer.

You should contact your doctor if:

  • Your heartburn symptoms become more severe or frequent.
  • It is hard or hurts to swallow.
  • Your heartburn causes you to vomit.
  • You have had substantial, unexpected weight loss.
  • You take over-the-counter antacids for more than two weeks (or for a longer time than recommended on the label) and you still have heartburn symptoms.
  • You have heartburn symptoms even after taking prescription or non-prescription medicines.
  • You have serious hoarseness or wheezing.
  • Your discomfort interferes with your lifestyle or daily activities.

If your heartburn gets worse after you lie down:

  • Try to sleep on your left side. This may help digestion and the removal of acid from your stomach and esophagus more quickly.
  • Raise the head of your bed so that your head and chest are higher than your feet. Place 6-inch blocks or books under the bed posts at the head of the bed. Do not use piles of pillows. They may cause you to put more pressure on your stomach and make your heartburn worse.
  • Eat earlier. Try not to eat within three to four hours before you go to sleep.

If your heartburn gets worse after you exercise:

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

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