The best way to prevent heartburn/GORD is to establish what triggers the problem and to eliminate or avoid the causes where possible.
This can be complicated by the fact that different people can suffer from heartburn for completely separate reasons, though it is usually due to a combination of the below factors.
The following lifestyle changes may be all
that’s needed to relieve or prevent your heartburn:
weight, if necessary. Weight loss is associated with a significant
improvement in heartburn and GORD. Exercise several times a week, reduce
your portion sizes and eat healthy, balanced meals (include lots of fresh
vegetables). Work with a registered dietician if you struggle to lose
weight on your own.
small, frequent meals and don’t skip meals. Large
meals put pressure on your stomach and lower oesophageal sphincter (LES).
This could lead to reflux and heartburn.
slowly and chew your food properly. This will make the food easier to
digest and pass through the digestive system.
foods and beverages that make your heartburn worse. These differ from
person to person, but may include:
- Rich, fatty foods. These foods delay
gastric emptying, prolonging the time stomach acid is in contact with the
- Spicy foods, which may irritate the lining of the oesophagus and
- Alcohol, which may irritate the lining of the oesophagus and stomach.
- Caffeinated, carbonated beverages (e.g. Coca Cola), which could lead to
- Coffee, which may cause relaxation of the LES.
- Chocolate, which may cause relaxation of the LES.
- Citrus fruits and juices, which are very acidic.
- Tomato sauce, which is also acidic.
- Peppermint and spearmint, which may cause relaxation of the LES.
- Refined starches (e.g. white bread, porridge, pasta), which tend to cause gas.
- Onions, garlic, cucumber and peppers,
which tend to cause gas.
drink large amounts of fluid with your meals.
- Don’t eat
late-night snacks and don’t lie down for 2-3 hours after eating a meal.
sugarless gum after meals. The saliva generated acts as a buffer to the
acid in your digestive system.
taking painkillers such as ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen regularly or in
large quantities, as they may irritate the lining of your oesophagus and
- Sleep on
your left-hand side. Research shows that reflux occurs more frequently in
people who sleep on their right-hand side.
the head of your bed, e.g. put the top section of the bed on bricks or
blocks, or sleep on a wedge-shaped pillow. Gravity helps to clear the
refluxed stomach contents from your oesophagus. Also, reflux experienced
during the night tends to be more damaging than reflux experienced during
your torso might also help, as it reduces
pressure on the LES. Use a cushion or a wedge.
- Don’t wear
tight-fitting clothes, which can put pressure on your stomach.
the effect of certain types of exercise. Bending over, doing heavy
lifting, and doing intense physical activity may trigger reflux and
heartburn, so it might be better to switch to different or more moderate
activities. Note that exercise is extremely beneficial to your overall
health, so try to exercise as often as possible. Avoid exercising on a
full stomach, and drink a glass of water before and after exercise.
smoking. The nicotine in cigarettes causes the LES to relax, increasing
the risk for reflux and heartburn.
- Keep a
diary of what you eat, your activities and the symptoms you experience.
This can help you identify which lifestyle factors contribute to your
heartburn. There are great phone apps out there to make this process as
easy as possible.
- Reviewed by Dr Estelle Wilken,Senior Specialist in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology at Tygerberg Hospital. - March 2017