A night of rich food and flowing wine sounds like a great night—unless you have heartburn, that is. The number of people suffering from the condition—which causes uncomfortable pain beneath your chest—has nearly doubled in the past decade. If this sounds all too familiar, we have some tips to help prevent and sooth the burn.
Did you know too much of it—decaf or caffeinated—can cause heartburn? It’s not just the acidity that causes discomfort, says Dr. Gary W. Falk, and Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Researchers have found that coffee’s combined ingredients can lead to an increased production of acid in the stomach. While one or two cups a day most likely won’t cause you pain, a pot a day certainly can, Falk adds. Cut down, and most likely your symptoms will fade.
Heartburn can make you just want to hit the sack, but that can aggravate symptoms, says Falk. Why? When you’re standing, gravity helps keep food down, and as you swallow saliva acts as a natural antacid, clearing the oesophagus. “When you sleep, you no longer have gravity working with you, and you no longer make salvia,” says Falk. Tip: Avoid eating 2 to 3 hours before calling it a night. A recent study found that when people ate dinner either 2 hours or 6 hours before bed, the early eaters had significantly less reflux throughout the night.
A Tight Belt
Tight belts can raise pressure in the abdomen, says Dr. Prediman Krishan Shah, and Director of Cardiology at Cedars Sinai Heart Institute. This can cause your stomach contents to push harder against the valve that keeps food in the stomach.
Your Big Belly
“One of the biggest risks of reflux is obesity,” says Falk. The more kgs you pack on, the more abdominal pressure you’ll have, and the easier it is for food to get pushed the wrong direction. For an effective weight-loss plan, check out Men’s Health Belly Off!
One Solution: Find the Right Medication
Antacids: These neutralize acids that cause you pain, and are your best bet for mild symptoms (i.e.: you rarely get heartburn, but that Mexican meal took you for a tailspin). Falk recommends Gelusil, an OTC, chewable pill that acts quickly.
H2 Blockers: Think Zantac and Pepcid—they reduce the amount of acid the stomach produces by blocking histamine2, an important producer. H2 Blockers are a good option for recurring heartburn discomfort.
Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI’s): These are prescription medications—pills or liquid—used by doctors to treat recurrent heartburn, and more serious issues like ulcers (Prilosec and Nexium are PPI’s). They reduce the production of acid by blocking an enzyme in the wall of the stomach that produces it. If your heartburn symptoms are extreme—if you’re having difficulty swallowing, or have lost weight, you should make an appointment with your gastroenterologist.