There are many simple things one can do to help manage the levels of stomach acid and reduce heartburn. Heartburn triggers vary from person to person so the following suggestions are not universal. Experiment with these suggestions and make a conscious effort to assess how your body feels.
Using a diary to track what works and what doesn’t can help you figure out the best diet for you. For example:
- Drink water between meals rather than with them. If you consume too much liquid with a meal, it actually increases the volume of stomach content, which increases your chance of heartburn.
- Be careful with peppermint, spearmint, and chocolate. They all contain compounds that cause the lower esophageal sphincter – the muscle that acts as a valve to let food into the stomach – to loosen and relax. When that happens, acid in the stomach can flow back up into the esophagus.
- Highly acidic foods like oranges, orange juice, tomatoes, and grapefruits are classic heartburn foods, especially when consumed on an empty stomach. Consider experimenting with stomach-cooling juices like papaya, mango, guava, and pear.
- Certain spices like ginger, curry, and parsley all provoke heartburn. Garlic, raw onions, or anything loaded with pepper also provoke heartburn, so try consuming just a little bit at a time.
- Alcoholic beverages like wine or beer can trigger heartburn.
- Caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, and cola all raise the level of acidity in the stomach. This causes stomach juices to become more irritated if they make their way up into the esophagus.
A great way to avoid the wrong foods or drinks is to keep a stash of safe snacks in your home or office. Having healthy foods on hand like raw vegetables, raisins, or graham crackers makes reaching for those less safe snacks and beverages less likely.
When it comes to dessert, always try to go light. Heavy desserts tend to be higher in fat and can induce heartburn. Try sucking on hard candy instead. This triggers the production of saliva, which is a natural barrier to acid. However, try to avoid mint candies.
How we eat is just as important as what we eat. Practice portion control, because the stomach responds to large portions by producing large amounts of acid.
Eating slowly and chewing foods thoroughly will not only make you feel fuller but it gives your stomach time to digest, which could decrease the probability of heartburn.
Finally, finish eating your last meal of the day at least 2-3 hours before going to bed. That time will give your acid levels a chance to decrease before you lie down – a position in which heartburn is likely to occur.
The best heartburn protection comes from a combination of diet, health, and lifestyle changes. If you’re still suffering from heartburn two or more days a week, you should talk to your doctor about supplementing your diet with a medication.