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Diet & Nutrition

9 Natural Ways To Extinguish Heartburn

You may know that I’m busy writing away in the wee hours of the morning (in fact, I just got the go-ahead from my publisher, Kensington, to reveal the title of my first novel! Too fun.). As a result, however, I’ve been drinking just a *tad* more coffee than usual.

Can you say: heartburn?

Which, of course, has provided the inspiration for this post.

Do you suffer heartburn? Technically called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), it’s that burning feeling in the center of your chest caused by a backwards flow of stomach acid into your esophagus. Yes, it’s not nice, and it really freaking hurts sometimes. So what can you do to extinguish the fire of heartburn?

There are medications, of course, both prescription and over-the-counter options. But what about non-pharmaceutical remedies?

Here are nine drug-free ways to go:

1. Don’t eat late at night.

And don’t lie down for a nap right after eating, either. Filling your stomach right before lying down worsens that backwards flow of stomach acid. Your stomach needs a chance to empty first.

2. Avoid spicy foods.

Chili peppers, hot sauces, garlic, onions, wasabi….all of these worsen heartburn.

3. Sleep on an incline.

This is simply a gravitational thing. If you properly elevate the head of your bed (with blocks under the upper end of your bedframe–not just propping yourself up with a bunch of pillows) you’ll minimize the amount of backwards flow of acid.

4. Avoid acidic foods.

Tomatoes (and any tomato-based foods like pasta sauce) and citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit, lemon) are the big culprits here, as well as vinegar in salad dressings.

5. Quit smoking.

There’s a sphincter muscle at the base of your esophagus that helps to prevent that backwards flow of stomach acid into your esophagus. Tobacco lowers the tone of that muscle, making it looser, and allowing that acid into the place where it shouldn’t be.

6. Eat smaller, more frequent meals.

Big meals put more pressure on your stomach (and the lower esophageal sphincter I was just talking about), making reflux much more likely. Eating smaller meals frequently spaced through the day can reduce reflux (and may also help that waistline, too).

7. Avoid fatty foods.

Deep-fried foods and foods high in saturated fat tend to hang around in the stomach longer. And they also relax the lower esophageal sphincter muscle (sensing a trend, here?). Plus, they will, of course, make you chubbier. And a heavier weight, overall, is a contributing factor for reflux and heartburn.

8. Avoid certain beverages.

Yes, this is where I’m talking about coffee. My beloved coffee. Other liquid culprits? Acidic juices (like OJ) and soda, which is a particular heartburn demon: sugary, acidic, and gassy.

9. Embrace the slow food movement.

Yes, we’re all busy. But all that rushing around, grabbing food on the go, and gobbling it down, is a recipe for poor digestion and heartburn. Slow down. Enjoy your food and eat slowly. And read this about mindful eating.

(Curious about all this writing and novel talk from me? Check out my personal blog. Or find me on my Facebook Page.)

About Kim Foster

Dr. Kim Foster is a writer, family doctor, and mom.

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  1. Pingback: My Healthy Advice This Week « kim foster - November 9, 2012

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Dr. Kim Foster, MD. (photo credit: Tamea Burd Photography)

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