Are you suffering from heartburn? You’re not alone! It’s an extremely common complaint, affecting up to 1 in 4 adults in the UK.1https://gutscharity.org.uk/advice-and-information/symptoms/heartburn-and-reflux/2https://www.kingedwardvii.co.uk/health-hub/what-causes-acid-reflux-and-how-can-it-be-treated Heartburn is a common symptom of acid reflux, where acid travels from your stomach up into the oesophagus (food pipe), resulting in a very uncomfortable burning sensation in the chest. Despite its name, the heart actually has nothing to do with it!
The term heartburn is often used interchangeably with acid reflux and GORD. Acid reflux describes this flow of stomach acid up into the oesophagus. The burning sensation that this causes, is referred to as heartburn. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is the more chronic and severe form of acid reflux. In GORD, acid reflux occurs at least twice a week, and can cause disruptive symptoms or complications.3https://www.healthline.com/health/gerd/heartburn-vs-acid-reflux#heartburn4https://www.pfizer.com/news/articles/heartburn_acid_reflux_or_gerd_what_s_the_difference5https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/constantly-repeating-yourself-dont-let-reflux-disease-give-you-the-run-around.html6https://www.kingedwardvii.co.uk/health-hub/what-causes-acid-reflux-and-how-can-it-be-treated. GORD affects about 1 in 10 adults.7https://www.theguthealthdoctor.com/acid-reflux/
So, how can you combat heartburn and acid reflux? Here are some diet and lifestyle strategies to help you resolve this issue once and for all!
Stop when you’re full
If you overfill your stomach, you are very likely to experience heartburn. This overfilling of your stomach causes an unequal pressure between your stomach and oesophagus and can lead to acid reflux and heartburn.8https://www.healthline.com/health/acid-reflux-at-night#causes
Red meat can trigger acid reflux. Try keeping a food diary for 1-2 weeks and note if you experience any heartburn following a red meat meal. If you do, try removing red meat for 2 weeks and see if it makes a difference. Other potential triggers to look at include greasy food, high-fat foods, and rich foods (e.g. wine, alcohol, spicy or deep-fried foods).9https://www.theguthealthdoctor.com/acid-reflux/10https://naturopathy.ie/health-tips/2021/06/15/what-causes-heartburn/ If you identify a trigger, start reducing how much you consume, or if it brings you no nutritional value, try to eliminate it altogether.
Chew your food
You would be surprised at how many common digestive complaints can be alleviated or eased by simply chewing your food properly and slowly. Digestion begins in your mouth – aim to chew each mouthful at least 15 times. Get into the practice of eating your food mindfully!11https://naturopathy.ie/health-tips/2021/06/15/what-causes-heartburn/
Avoid large meals
Opt for smaller meals more often than the traditional 3 large meals pattern. Manage portion sizes and resist the urge to overeat!12https://www.healthline.com/health/acid-reflux-at-night#causes
Don’t eat before bed
Avoid eating in the 3-4 hour window before bed.13https://gutscharity.org.uk/advice-and-information/symptoms/heartburn-and-reflux/14https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heartburn-and-acid-reflux/15https://www.healthline.com/health/acid-reflux-at-night#causes Allowing time for your body to digest food properly before lying down will enable the food to move from your stomach down into your small intestine.16https://naturopathy.ie/health-tips/2021/06/15/what-causes-heartburn/
Manage your weight
A more long-term solution to work on is keeping your weight in check. The risk of acid reflux and heartburn is increased in those who are overweight.17https://www.pfizer.com/news/articles/heartburn_acid_reflux_or_gerd_what_s_the_difference18https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heartburn-and-acid-reflux/19https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/constantly-repeating-yourself-dont-let-reflux-disease-give-you-the-run-around.html Excess weight increases the pressure on the oesophagal sphincter (the ‘trapdoor’ between your stomach and oesophagus).20https://www.theguthealthdoctor.com/acid-reflux/ Learn more about calorie balance here!
Address any constipation or bloating
Constipation and bloating may worsen reflux so it’s important to address the underlying causes of these in order to resolve the issue and any other consequent symptoms.21https://www.theguthealthdoctor.com/acid-reflux/
Kefir is great for reflux as it contains several different strains of lactobacillus, probiotics and good bacteria – all of which are great for combating digestive and gut issues including acid reflux.22http://www.livestrong.com/article/491763-is-kefir-good-for-acid-reflux/ Kefir is also recommended as helpful for acid reflux by Dr Josh Axe.23https://draxe.com/health/acid-reflux-symptoms/
Mind your stress levels
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – look after your gut-brain connection! Mental stress can trigger digestive symptoms because of this gut-brain connection. Try to destress with some breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, etc.
Avoid tight clothing
Nicotine, which is the key part of tobacco and many of the newly popular vapes, is thought to relax the oesophagal sphincter, allowing acid to move up in the wrong direction, causing acid reflux and heartburn.25https://naturopathy.ie/health-tips/2021/06/15/what-causes-heartburn/26https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heartburn-and-acid-reflux/27https://www.theguthealthdoctor.com/acid-reflux/ Another reason to quit!
Sleep with 2 pillows
To prevent acid reflux at night, try sleeping at a 45-degree angle by using 2 pillows. This elevation helps to stop your stomach contents from moving upwards. It may also help to sleep on your left side, which can help acid flow in the right direction – oesophagus to stomach.28https://www.healthline.com/health/acid-reflux-at-night#prevention
Are there any alarm symptoms to look out for?
As with any health concern, it is always best practice to check in with your GP if something doesn’t feel right. If you have any of the following symptoms, it’s time to discuss them with your doctor:
- Inability or difficulty to swallow
- Any tenderness or lumps in your throat or stomach
- Unintentional or unexplained weight loss
- A family history of either stomach or oesophageal cancer29https://www.theguthealthdoctor.com/acid-reflux/30https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/constantly-repeating-yourself-dont-let-reflux-disease-give-you-the-run-around.html31https://gutscharity.org.uk/advice-and-information/symptoms/heartburn-and-reflux/
For information on how to feed your gut bugs what they need, check out our post Love your gut – with the anti-inflammatory diet!
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