Heartburn, the regurgitation of stomach acids into your throat, can creep up and make you uncomfortable at the most inconvenient time. Whether you’re diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or occasionally experience symptoms of heartburn after eating a spicy meal, acid reflux can be unpleasant.
Symptoms of heartburn can include:
- burning in the throat, abdomen, or chest
- trouble swallowing
- sore throat
- frequent burping
Learning some quick relief methods and tips can nip your symptoms in the bud. However, speak to your doctor if heartburn becomes a recurring issue. Prescription medications and lifestyle changes can help manage your condition and prevent bouts of heartburn.
Make yourself as comfortable as possible when the burning sensation of acid indigestion strikes. Heartburn can intensify when pressure is applied to your stomach, as this can cause stomach acids to flow backwards and weaken the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).
The LES, a muscle at the base of your esophagus, allows food and drink to travel to your stomach. Normally, after you eat, the LES closes tightly to keep stomach acids in your stomach, where they belong. A weak LES can open or loosen, allowing the acids to reflux into the upper area of your digestive system.
To help prevent this from happening after a meal:
- avoid tight-fitting pants or skirts
- loosen or remove snug belts
- wear comfortable, flowing tops that don’t constrict your abdomen
Relief may not come immediately, and you may need to take additional preventive steps. However, removing any outside pressure from your stomach can help.
Reclining soon after eating can increase your risk of acid reflux and associated symptoms. Instead, keep yourself upright for at least three hours after meals and snacks to prevent symptoms. Be conscious of your body position when the telltale signs of heartburn, such as the familiar burning or scratchy throat, begin.
Sit up straight or stand if you catch yourself in a slouchy position after a heavy meal. Correcting your posture early may help stop troublesome symptoms before they become full-blown. Adjust the timing of your meals or your bedtime if late-night heartburn seems to strike often.
One of the substances in your saliva is bicarbonate, the same active ingredient in baking soda that neutralizes acids. Pop a piece of chewing gum the next time you’ve got the distinct sour and acidic taste of heartburn in your mouth.
Studies performed by Wake Forest University’s Center for Voice Disorders show that chewing gum stimulates salivation and can also increase your concentration of salivary bicarbonate. A higher concentration of the substance in your body can reduce or prevent the symptoms of acid reflux.
Chew gum that lists bicarbonate in the ingredients for optimum results. You can find these varieties near the toothpaste section at your local store or pharmacy. Regular gum can also be a quick remedy for heartburn.
Protect yourself from tooth decay by choosing sugarless varieties, and avoid peppermint chewing gum when possible. Natural peppermint flavoring can worsen your symptoms.
Get quick relief from heartburn by taking an over-the-counter (OTC) antacid. These medications, in chewable tablet or liquid forms, neutralize stomach acids quickly by coating your stomach with one or more of these minerals and chemicals:
Consult your doctor before adding an OTC antacid if you take prescription-strength H2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors (PPI). You still may be able to take antacids, but might have to time your meds carefully to avoid drug interactions.
OTC acid reducers and PPI drugs are usually taken before you eat to prevent rather than treat heartburn.
Stress can heighten chronic heartburn or produce symptoms in people who don’t normally experience gastrointestinal problems. Reducing stress may also help relieve heartburn in those who suffer from occasional and mild cases of acid reflux.
The Mayo Clinic suggests the following alternative methods for alleviating your stress and heartburn:
- exercising (gentle, not vigorous which may exacerbate symptoms)
- listening to music
- practicing aromatherapy
- utilizing hypnosis or visualization techniques
- getting a massage
Do whatever will help you relax if these suggestions don’t appeal to you but you have a hunch that your heartburn is related to stress. Chances are, your acid reflux will calm down when your mind does.