Heartburn is a pain in the butt. And a common one at that.
One in three UK adults suffer from the health complaint with one in six experiencing it frequently – meaning twice a week or more.
With all of the eating and boozing that tends to be done over the bank holiday weekend, the chances of heartburn sufferers experiencing discomfort is greatly increased.
That’s why Helen Boardman, a pharmacist and lecturer at the University of Nottingham, has teamed up with Nexium Control to offer her top tips for avoiding the burn this weekend (and hopefully forevermore).
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1. Know your triggers and steer clear
Triggers are different for everyone, but if you don’t know what yours are, start by avoiding common causes such as citrus drinks, high-fat foods, onions and chocolate.
It is also worth cutting down on alcohol, coffee and fizzy drinks to see if your symptoms improve.
2. Avoid having a lie down after heavy meals
After eating, it’s best to give it two or three hours before going to sleep.
This will give your stomach a chance to move the meal through your digestive system, leaving itself empty and less likely to reflux when you lie down.
If you don’t fancy a long wait before bedtime, keep your dinner light to speed things along.
3. Don’t rush
Wolfing your food won’t help, as it leads to over-eating which will cause your stomach to over-fill and trigger heartburn.
Rushing, or feeling stressed, will also cause the stomach to produce more acid, so take your time over your meal and enjoy the benefits.
4. Keep a heartburn diary
Try keeping note of when each bout of heartburn hits.
When you look over this afterwards, it will become more clear as to what the causes are, allowing you make heartburn-free plans in the future.
5. Quit smoking
Cigarettes will make heartburn more painful, by irritating the throat.
On top of this, however, they cause the oesophageal muscles to relax, allowing stomach acid to seep out and cause heartburn.
6. Work out
Doing regular exercise can often help, although it is best to give abdominal crunches a wide berth to avoid pushing acid out of the stomach.
Always try to wait at least two hours after a meal before exercising.
7. Control your portions
Eating too much is a common heartburn trigger. Switch your dinner plate for a smaller side plate to keep portion sizes down.
8. Watch your weight
If you are overweight, you are more likely to suffer from heartburn.
Tight waistbands won’t help, as they will put pressure on your stomach which will cause it to reflux.
Losing excess pounds can help relieve your symptoms, as well as avoiding snug clothes.
9. Raise the head of your bed
Lying flat increases the chance of acid entering the oesophagus so many people find their heartburn is worse at night.
Try raising the head of your bed approximately 15 cm (6 inches) with some bricks or books. You can also try a wedge pillow.
10. Try medicine
There are a broad range of over the counter treatment options available. Antacids and alginates offer temporary relief from symptoms.
Sarah Jarvis, GP and medical broadcaster, suggests PPIs or proton pump inhibitors - an effective short-term treatment for people to help keep their heartburn under control and help maintain a good quality of life.
It will act to target heartburn at its source by blocking acid production in the stomach and can provide relief of symptoms through the day and night.
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