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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Self-care for heartburn

There are several things you can do to ease your symptoms and reduce how often you have heartburn.

Do not smoke

Smoking can increase the amount of acid your stomach makes. It can also weaken your sphincter valve, which stops acid flowing back into your oesophagus.

Maintain a healthy weight

If you're overweight, losing weight may help to ease your symptoms. Excess weight, especially if it's around your middle, puts extra pressure on your stomach and encourages acid to flow back into your oesophagus.

Avoid tight-fitting clothing

Clothes or belts that fit tightly around your waist put pressure on your stomach and encourage acid reflux.

Avoid foods and drinks that trigger heartburn

Some foods and drinks can make heartburn worse in some people. Keep a food diary and record whether certain foods and drinks make your heartburn better or worse. You can then avoid those that make it worse.

Common foods and drinks that can trigger heartburn or make it worse include:

Eat smaller meals

Eating too much food at one time can make heartburn worse. Rather than having three large meals a day, try having smaller meals more often. Also eat slowly and chew your food well. If you eat quickly, putting your knife and fork down between mouthfuls may help to slow you down.

Do not lie down after eating

Wait at least three hours after eating before you lie down or go to bed.

Raise the head of your bed

If you often have heartburn at night, raising the head of your bed by around 20 cm (8 inches) may help. You can do this by putting wood or blocks under the feet of your bed or by putting pillows under the upper part of your mattress. Your oesophagus needs to be higher than your stomach, so do not use extra pillows on top of the mattress. That will only raise your head and may give you a sore neck.

Try to get enough sleep and avoid sleeping on your right side

Lack of sleep and lying on your right side can make heartburn worse. They can relax your sphincter valve, which stops acid flowing back into your oesophagus. If you have heartburn at night, try lying on your left side.

Herbal remedies

Herbal remedies sometimes used for heartburn include liquorice, slippery elm, chamomile, marshmallow and others. But herbal remedies can have serious side effects and they may interfere with any medicines you're taking. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice before you begin any herbal remedy.

Manage stress

Getting enough sleep and being active can help to reduce stress. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, tai chi or muscle relaxation exercises may help.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2021.

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Page reference: 189761

Review key: HIARH-24342