Heartburn is a common condition that affects millions of people around the world. It can be uncomfortable and painful, but it’s usually not dangerous. Knowing what causes heartburn and how to treat it can help you manage it when it does happen. Here’s a look at what heartburn is and some strategies for reducing its impact on your life.
What Causes Heartburn?
Heartburn occurs when acid from the stomach moves up into the esophagus, causing irritation and inflammation. This happens because parts of the esophagus are not closing correctly or because of the consumption of foods that are difficult to digest.
Anyone can get heartburn. However, some people are more susceptible to it due to known risk factors. Here are some of those factors:
The foods we eat impact people’s digestive health, including their risk of developing heartburn. Common dietary triggers include acidic foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes, and spicy dishes; fatty or fried foods; processed meats like bacon and sausage; garlic and onions; alcoholic beverages; caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, and soda; chocolate; peppermint; dairy products like milk and cheese; and high-fiber items such as whole grain breads and cereals. Avoiding these items can help reduce your risk of experiencing heartburn.
Certain lifestyle habits may also increase your risk of getting heartburn. For example, smoking cigarettes or cigars can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), increasing the chance that stomach acid will back up into the esophagus. Additionally, eating large meals or lying down after eating can put extra pressure on the LES, making it easier for stomach acid to reach your esophagus. Finally, emotional stress can also trigger symptoms of heartburn in some individuals. Taking steps to manage stress can be beneficial in helping prevent heartburn flare-ups.
There are a variety of over-the-counter medications as well as prescription drugs that may increase your risk of experiencing heartburn symptoms, including aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen sodium (Aleve), certain antibiotics such as tetracyclines, certain antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), calcium channel blockers used to treat high blood pressure or chest pain (angina), sedatives used to treat anxiety or insomnia, bisphosphonates taken for osteoporosis prevention or treatment, progesterone hormones taken during menopause or birth control pills containing estrogen hormone replacement therapy drugs taken during menopause all may cause an increase in heartburn symptoms. Speak with your doctor about any medications you are taking if you experience regular bouts of indigestion or acid reflux-like symptoms.
Managing Heartburn Symptoms
Thankfully, heartburn symptoms can be managed quite easily. Here are some of those ways.
Staying active is one of the best ways to manage heartburn, and dancing is one of the best ways to do that. Dancing burns calories and helps to keep your weight in check. It’s also a fun way to do it. Consider getting affordable ballroom lessons to stay active if you have a partner. Ballroom dancing is a great way to keep your heart rate up and get some exercise while having a good time.
Eat Small Meals More Frequently
Eating large meals puts pressure on your stomach, increasing the risk of heartburn. To help reduce this risk, try eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day rather than three large meals. Eating smaller portions will also help you maintain a healthy weight, essential for managing heartburn symptoms.
Avoid Trigger Foods
Certain foods trigger heartburn in some people, such as fatty foods, spicy foods, and citrus fruits. If you notice that certain foods cause an increase in your heartburn symptoms, it may be best to avoid them altogether or limit your intake of those particular foods. Pay attention to what you eat and drink to identify potential triggers and make adjustments accordingly.
Manage Stress Levels
Stress is another major factor in causing and worsening heartburn symptoms. Take steps to reduce your stress levels, such as taking regular breaks throughout the day, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep each night, meditating or practicing yoga, and spending time with family and friends. If these strategies don’t help alleviate your stress levels or improve your symptoms, consider talking to your doctor about other options for managing stress levels related to heartburn symptoms.
Heartburn can be an uncomfortable experience, but it doesn’t have to negatively impact your life if you know how to manage its effects. Avoiding known triggers is one of the best ways to reduce symptoms while also making lifestyle changes, such as eating smaller meals throughout the day or not lying down after meals can also help prevent heartburn from occurring in the first place. By doing these things, you’ll be able to keep your heartburn in check and enjoy life without it holding you back.