Healthy Living

How Can I Manage Heartburn?

How Can I Manage Heartburn?

Key Takeaways

  • Certain foods, such as dairy products, chocolate, beef, chicken nuggets, chicken wings, citrus fruits, mashed potatoes, tomatoes, raw onions, and drinks that contain caffeine can trigger heartburn.
  • Foods that trigger heartburn allow contents from the stomach to enter the esophagus.
  • Prescription medications and over-the-counter medications can be used to help manage heartburn.

The burning sensation that heartburn causes can be more than just an inconvenience once in a while. It can keep you awake during the night, and affect your day-to-day activities. Heartburn relief relies on an individual's understanding to avoid the basic triggers for heartburn in his or her diet. The triggers for this condition vary depending on the individual. Here are a few triggers that often cause this condition:

  • Cheese, cream, milkshakes, ice cream, and other dairy products
  • Coffee, tea, wine, and other beverages
  • Chocolate, brownies, doughnuts, fries, and other fatty foods
  • Beef, chicken nuggets, chicken wings, and other meat products
  • Juices, like orange, lemon juice, and grapefruit
  • Mashed potatoes, tomatoes, raw onions, and other vegetables
  • Carbonated beverages 

Majority of these food and beverage triggers inhibit the functioning of the valve that prevents the contents of the stomach from re-entering the esophagus. Identifying these triggers and avoiding them in your diet is the best way to manage heartburn.

In addition to changes in your diet, heartburn can also be managed by simple lifestyle changes. Portion control and eating smaller meals at regulated intervals during the day, helps to reduce the amount of time that food sits in your stomach. Try to eat about two hours before sleeping. Lying down immediately after a heavy meal can also trigger heartburn. Avoiding foods that are high in fat contents can help to prevent heartburn from occurring. 

In most cases, over-the-counter medications are helpful to alleviate the symptoms of this condition. Antacids are known to relieve heartburn almost immediately. Yet, one should consult with a health care professional if the antacids do not alleviate the symptoms. If heartburn is not controlled, even with home remedies and antacids, doctors may recommend medications. Some of the common medications prescribed include:

  • Histamine-2-blockers – These drugs effectively reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach. They also effectively alleviate heartburn within 30 minutes of taking the drug.
  • Metoclopramide – This drug helps to empty food quickly from the stomach, which can reduce the chances of acid reflux from occurring. It also effectively tightens the valve muscles.
  • Proton pump inhibitors – These drugs block the production of stomach acids and allow damaged tissue to heal in the esophagus. They are recommended only when other drugs do not effectively reduce symptoms.

If over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs do not effectively control heartburn, surgery may be recommended. Surgery is used to tighten the sphincter muscles at the opening of esophagus into the stomach. Surgery is usually suggested depending on the severity of the condition to prevent further complications.