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How to Prevent Heartburn

Updated on October 18, 2011

About three years ago, I began to suffer from heartburn, really terrible bouts of heartburn. The pain began in my chest and spread down my arms. I thought I was having a heart attack because the pain was so severe and lasted a good three minutes. I began to spend a ton of money on over-the-counter heartburn medications, both that claimed to prevent heartburn and to alleviate heartburn. Then I began to suffer from the side effects of the heartburn medications from dry mouth to swelling of the tongue.

When money became tight, I began purchasing some cheaper heartburn medications that were not aimed solely at heartburn relief, because even the generic brands are costly. I began using Tums, which gave me a kidney stone, and I purchased some Alka-Seltzer, which doesn’t work that well for severe heartburn.

I finally had to face the fact that my body is just not tolerating certain foods that it used to tolerate. And, oh! How I enjoy these foods! Depending on what food it is, I will risk the heartburn that has me out of breath and near tears, but for the most part, I am able to control heartburn without the need for medication.

By making a few changes that aren’t that difficult to follow, you can reduce not just the severity of heartburn, but prevent heartburn altogethter.

The Easy Changes:

Six simple changes in your diet and lifestyle can prevent and/or control heartburn:

--Don’t go to bed with a full stomach.

--Don’t overeat.

--Eat slowly.

--Avoid tight clothing.

--Keep track of the activities that trigger heartburn, and avoid them for a few hours after you eat.

--Drink more water. Water helps food to digest.

As I indicated, I still eat some of the foods that I really enjoy. I've learned to alter the amount of ingredients that have a tendency to give me heartburn. For example, I love machaca. In my machaca recipe is tomato paste, and this is a recipe for disaster for anyone who has heartburn. I've toned down the tomato paste and rely on the drippings for flavor. I also eat much smaller portions than I usually do, and I no longer use hot sauce as a condiment when I eat machaca.

Salsa is one of my favorite snacks. I am no longer able to eat chips and salsa as a snack, but every so often, I can't resist. I'm very careful about the amount of salsa I consume. While I used to love a little bit of chip with my salsa, I now enjoy a little bit of salsa with my chips.

Barbecue sauce is another one of my favorites that needed to be toned down. Like chips and salsa, I love a little bit of chicken to go with my barbecue sauce. I no longer douse my food with barbecue sauce. However the meat comes off the grill is the way I eat it. I eliminate the extra side of barbecue sauce, and manage to prevent heartburn. That's fine with me. I'm still able to enjoy the great taste of barbecue.

The Difficult Changes:

--Avoid foods and/or beverages that trigger heartburn (goodbye La Victoria hot sauce!).

--Lose weight.

--Quit smoking.

--Avoid alcohol.

Heartburn Relief:

If you do get a bout of heartburn, there are a few things that you can do to find relief if you don’t have any medicine on hand:

--Don’t lie down. If you are in bed, you can raise your pillows so that your head and chest are higher than your feet. But try to prevent an angle at your waist. You may find that placing six-inch blocks under the front posts of the bed will work better.

--Lay on your left side. I didn’t believe it until I tried it. It helps with digestion (it's the direction of digestion) and helps to remove acid from the stomach.

Lastly, if you suffer from heartburn two times a week or more, you may have GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). This is caused by a muscle at the end of the esophagus that doesn’t close properly and causes food contents to come back up into your esophagus. The same lifestyle changes for heartburn are recommended for GERD. If you are unable to control your symptoms, you should contact a doctor.


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    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 7 years ago from UK

      Sensible . useful advice! well done.

    • Deni Edwards profile image

      Deni Edwards 7 years ago from california

      Thanks, Martie. Your comments are always appreciated!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 7 years ago from South Africa

      I suffered from heartburn and GERD a few years ago – the cause was later diagnosed (and treated) – gall stones!

      Thank you for this informative hub about heartburn, Deni. It was straight away bookmarked by me and voted up and up.

    • Deni Edwards profile image

      Deni Edwards 7 years ago from california

      Thanks for commenting, fucsia!

    • fucsia profile image

      fucsia 7 years ago

      I rarely suffer of heartburn... But I know: it is a terrible pain! Thanks for your advice