When acid from your stomach shoots up into your esophagus, that’s heartburn, also called acid reflux or GERD, which stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. The esophagus is meant to be a one-way tube, passing food from your mouth to your stomach. When contents from your stomach come up instead of going down, it’s never pleasant. But it is incredibly common.
The sensation varies among people. It’s most commonly felt as a burning discomfort in the area between the belly button and the breast bone. Some people feel it in the back of the throat. Some people get heartburn only occasionally and others experience it several times a day.
Heartburn has often been confused with symptoms of a heart attack so it’s important to be able to distinguish them. If you’re sweaty, short of breath, or have a sense that your heart is beating too hard or too fast or in an otherwise irregular way, call for emergency help. Otherwise, here are some strategies for dealing with ordinary heartburn.
- Eat more slowly. Eating a large meal quickly can put a lot of pressure on your stomach. That alone can cause stomach acid to shoot up into the esophagus. Smaller, more frequent meals can also help you avoid becoming too full.
- Drink much of your daily water intake between meals and drink less during meals. This will help you prevent an overly-full stomach during mealtimes.
- Identify which specific foods tend to lead to heartburn. Some common, troublesome foods are citrus, chocolate, tomato products, mint, onions, garlic, alcohol and fried or spicy foods. If you’re not sure which foods might be causing your heartburn, try an elimination diet. Take all the common heartburn inducing foods out of your diet for a week and gradually add them back, one at a time, until you identify which ones are the culprits, causing you trouble.
- Don’t go to sleep immediately after eating. Especially at night, when your digestive system is not operating at peak efficiency, lying down on a full stomach makes it easier for stomach acid to flow into your esophagus, causing heartburn. It’s best to wait two to four hours after eating dinner before going to sleep.
- Moving around a bit after eating is also a healthy habit. You don’t need to run a marathon to benefit from this strategy. Just getting up from the table and walking around the house (or clearing the table or washing the dishes) for five minutes will aid digestion and help prevent heartburn.
- Sometimes, over-the-counter or prescription antacids are necessary. If you have more than occasional heartburn, see your doctor.
The healthy diet and lifestyle changes you’re making with the Spatz3 adjustable gastric balloon are also going to go a long way to helping you manage the symptoms of heartburn.
Rebeca Espinoza writes about health, fitness and weight loss for Spatz Medical, makers of the Spatz3 Adjustable Gastric Balloon. You can find her on Google+ or at firstname.lastname@example.org.