Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Give Heartburn the Heave-Ho

(HealthDay News) -- Millions of Americans are plagued with heartburn, but experts say a few easy lifestyle changes can help reduce or eliminate symptoms.

Here are some tips from the May issue of the Mayo Clinic Health Letter:
· Eat smaller meals. This helps reduce pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter, the ring of muscles that normally keeps digestive acid in your stomach.
· Avoid "trigger" foods. Most people have specific foods that cause heartburn. These may include fatty or fried foods, alcohol, chocolate, peppermint, garlic, onion, tomato-based foods, spicy foods, citrus, caffeine, or nicotine.
· Loosen your belt. Tightness around your waist pressures the lower abdomen and lower esophageal sphincter.
· Don't lie down after eating. Wait at least three hours after you eat before you go to bed or stretch out on the couch.
· Quit smoking. Smoking can increase stomach acid. Swallowing air during smoking may also aggravate acid reflux.
· Stay slim. Being overweight is one of the biggest risk factors for heartburn.
· Elevate during sleep. For example, use bricks or blocks to raise the head of your bed about six inches, in order to get a bit of help from gravity in keeping stomach acid where it belongs. You can also insert a wedge between your mattress and box spring to elevate your body from the waist up. Using an extra pillow to elevate your head isn't sufficient.
· Turn left. Sleeping on your left side may help your stomach empty better.
If heartburn continues to be a problem, discuss it with your doctor. Treatment options include over-the-counter and prescription drugs, as well as surgery to tighten the sphincter muscles.

More information
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about heartburn.

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