Modifying one’s diet and lifestyle remains the foundation for treating the symptoms of reflux. Your goal is to prevent the problem by keeping stomach contents where they belong and staying away from foods that loosen the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).
Here are some prevention tips for people troubled by heartburn:
Eat smaller meals. A large meal remains in the stomach for several hours, increasing the chances for gastroesophageal reflux. Therefore, anyone who suffers from this problem should distribute his or her daily food intake over three, four, or five smaller meals.
Relax when you eat. Stress Increases the production of stomach acid, so make meals a pleasant, relaxing experience. Sit down. Eat slowly. Chew completely.
Play soothing music.
Relax between meals. Relaxation therapies such as deep breathing, meditation, massage, tai chi, or yoga may help prevent and relieve heartburn.
Remain upright after eating. You should maintain postures that reduce the risk for reflux for at least three hours after eating. For example, don’t bend over or strain to lift heavy objects.
Avoid eating within three hours of going to bed. Do not eat bedtime snacks.
Lose weight. Excess pounds increase pressure on the stomach and can push acid into the esophagus.
Loosen up. Avoid tight belts, waistbands, and other clothing that puts pressure on your stomach.
Avoid foods that burn. Abstain from food or drink that increases gastrjc acid secretion, decreases LES pressure or slows the emptying of the stomach. Known offenders include high-fat foods, spicy dishes, tomatoes and tomato products, citrus fruits, garlic, onions, milk, carbonated drinks, coffee (including decaf), tea, chocolate, mints, and alcohol. The list is long, but you’re likely to see a substantial improvement if you cut out such foods.
Stop smoking. Nicotine stimulates stomach acid and impairs LES function.
Chew gum. It can increase saliva production, soothing the esophagus and washing acid back down to the stomach.
Consult your pharmacist or doctor about your medications. Drugs that can predispose you to reflux include aspirin and other NSAIDs, estrogen, narcotics, certain antidepressants, and some asthma medications. If a drug you take causes heartburn, ask your pharmacist or doctor about an effective substitute.
Raise your bed’s head at night. If you’re bothered by nighttime heartburn, elevate the head of your bed by placing 6-inch blocks under its legs. Alternatively, you can place a wedge (available in medical supply stores) under your upper body. But don’t elevate your head with extra pillows. That makes reflux worse by bending you at the waist and compressing your stomach.
Exercise wisely. Wait at least two hours after a meal before engaging in vigorous physical activity, giving your stomach time to empty.