If you're one of the 40 million Americans who have heartburn symptoms at
least once a week -- or even among the 60 million more who have heartburn
symptoms at least once a month -- you're probably always looking for new ways
to relieve that acid reflux.
Even if your heartburn symptoms aren't severe and frequent enough to require
prescription medication, you can still get a lot of help in managing your acid
reflux from your local pharmacist. Pharmacists are savvy about not only
prescription heartburn medicine, but also over-the-counter remedies and even
lifestyle changes that can make a big difference in easing day-to-day
Lifestyle changes sometimes help prevent symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, a chronic form of heartburn. The major cause of GERD is that the lower esophageal sphincter, located where the esophagus joins the stomach, is weak or relaxes inappropriately.
Because fatty foods, mints, chocolates, alcohol, nicotine, and caffeinated beverages, such as coffee or colas, relax the lower esophageal sphincter, you may be able to reduce the amount of acid reflux you experience by avoiding these...
In many cases, you may be able to prevent acid reflux before it starts, says
Wayne Weart, PharmD, professor of clinical pharmacy and outcome sciences and
professor of family medicine with the South Carolina College of Pharmacy, the
Medical University of South Carolina campus. "Pay close attention to what
you're eating, when you're eating it, and what you're doing right after
Diet and exercise tips to ease heartburn symptoms include:
Avoid fatty or greasy foods.
Avoid citrus fruits or juices.
Replace large, heavy meals with several smaller, lighter meals.
Don't lie down or nap for two to three hours after eating.
Avoid exercise, bending, and stooping for a couple of hours after
What about spicy foods? Alcohol? Caffeine? Don't they aggravate acid
For some people, but not others, says Weart. "Fatty foods are pretty
universal triggers of heartburn symptoms, but some people with heartburn can
eat spicy foods without a flare-up, while others can't."
Most people can identify the foods that trigger acid reflux for them, but if
you're not sure, try keeping a diary for a week. Write down what you eat, and
when you have heartburn symptoms. You should be able to identify the foods you
need to steer clear of.
Other lifestyle changes that may help minimize your heartburn symptoms:
If you are overweight, losing a few pounds can help ease heartburn, as can
quitting smoking if you're a smoker.
Get a wedge pillow for your bed, or even raise the entire head of the bed
on blocks 6 to 8 inches. "Let gravity work for you," says Weart. But
don't prop yourself up on regular pillows. "You'll be bending in the middle
and increase gastric pressure."
Avoid tight-fitting clothing, especially anything that is binding around
Certain medications worsen or cause heartburn. These include medications
used to treat asthma, cardiovascular conditions, osteoporosis, arthritis, and
inflammation. If you think your medicine may be causing acid reflux, ask your
doctor if there are alternative drugs that offer the same benefit without the
Treating Heartburn Symptoms Over the Counter
Although lifestyle can help ease heartburn symptoms, many people with
recurrent acid reflux will still need medications to ease their discomfort.
Fortunately, there are plenty of options for over-the-counter heartburn