Heartburn, which is caused by stomach acid flowing back up into the esophagus, is often described as a painful burning sensation in the chest. While there are medications – both prescription and over-the-counter varieties— that can help treat heartburn, there are also simple lifestyle changes you can make to keep from getting heartburn in the first place.
Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Heartburn
- Eat smaller meals. Overeating can put pressure on your stomach and the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the valve between your stomach and esophagus that is supposed to prevent acid reflux.
- Eat slowly. Taking the time to chew may help you eat smaller meals. It also helps digest your food, which may result in less frequent heartburn.
- Eat earlier. Technically, what time you eat probably won’t affect your heartburn symptoms, but laying down soon after eating can trigger reflux. Waiting about three hours after eating to lay down allows gravity to help keep stomach acid out of your esophagus.
- Lose weight. Being overweight or obese puts pressure on the LES and increases your risk for heartburn.
- Quit smoking. Tobacco smoke can irritate your esophagus and relax the LES, which may lead to more frequent heartburn and more damage to the lining of your esophagus.
In addition to making these lifestyle changes, you may also want to adjust your diet in order to prevent heartburn. Keep a journal of the foods you eat that tend to lead to heartburn so that you can identify your personal heartburn triggers and know which foods to avoid.