Avoiding heartburn

Heartburn results from a backup of acid-containing stomach contents into your esophagus. Here are tips for prevention:

• Eat smaller meals Too much food expands your stomach and puts pressure on a band of muscle (the lower esophageal sphincter) that helps keep food and acid from backing up into your esophagus.

• Avoid alcohol, fatty foods, chocolate, spearmint and peppermint These foods can relax your lower esophageal sphincter and promote upward flow of stomach contents.

• Consider using an antacid or H-2 blocker Antacids such as Maalox, Mylanta, Tums and others help neutralize stomach acids temporarily. Over-the-counter histamine(H-2) blockers such as Pepcid AC, Tagamet HB, Zantac 75 and others reduce stomach acid production, which may relieve or prevent symptoms when taken before a meal. But overuse of antacids or H-2 blockers can cause side effects.

• Don’t eat before sleeping Wait two to three hours after eating before lying down. This allows enough time for increased stomach acid produced after a meal to taper off and for the stomach to empty from that meal.

• Stop smoking The nicotine from cigarettes can relax your lower esophageal
sphincter, allowing acid to flow back into your esophagus.

• Lose excess weight Slimming down if you’re overweight helps reduce the pressure
your abdomen puts on your stomach when you’re lying down.

• Wear loose clothes A tight belt or waistband can put pressure on your stomach and push acid into your esophagus, causing discomfort.

• Elevate the head of your bed Raise the head of your bed four to six inches. This helps keep
stomach acid in your stomach, where it belongs.