Reviewed by Dr. Rich Alweis
There are a variety of lifestyle changes that could drastically improve your heartburn. Many of these changes—like losing weight, or quitting smoking—may seem difficult.
But even making small changes to your diet and lifestyle can help your symptoms.
Detailed DescriptionBeing overweight
The following lifestyle factors can aggravate your heartburn:
Exercising without taking the proper precautions
Weight gain, and the poor diet that may be associated with it, can cause heartburn or make it worse. It is not clear why increased weight aggravates heartburn, but it is true for large numbers of people. There is good news, however: even a 10 percent drop in weight can improve your symptoms. For some people, that can be achieved by making simple lifestyle changes: adding moderate exercise to your routine, cutting back on alcohol, drinking water instead of soda, drinking coffee with creamer instead of a latte, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, etc.
If you get heartburn while working out, there are a number of potential solutions:For two hours before your workout, avoid protein and fats.
Avoid foods that aggravate your heartburn (see below).
Don’t eat a meal, especially a large meal, in the two hours before you exercise. A
full stomach increases likelihood of heartburn.
Drink plenty of water.
If you drink sports drinks, water them down. The carbohydrates in the drinks may contribute to heartburn.
Smoking increases heartburn for a number of reasons. It relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, which makes it easier for stomach contents to reflux. It also has harmful affects on saliva, preventing saliva from neutralizing acid in your esophagus. Unfortunately, quitting is the only solution.
Like smoking, alcohol can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, making it easier for acid to back up into the esophagus. Alcohol also causes the contractions that occur when you swallow to become erratic, which further lessens sphincter control. Alcohol causes more acid to be produced in your stomach, and it can make your esophagus more sensitive to that acid.
There are, however, ways to minimize alcohol’s affect on your system:Drink white wine instead of red.
Drink moderate amounts—1-2 mixed drinks, 12-16 ounces of wine, 2-3 beers.
Keep track of which drinks aggravate your heartburn, and avoid them as much as possible.
Try using other methods of relaxation—exercise, deep breathing, walking and stretching are options.
Some foods are more likely to produce acid then others. In general, high fat foods are more likely to cause symptoms. The lists below include those foods most likely and least likely to cause heartburn, but there is of course substantial middle ground. Many foods may have a moderate impact on your heartburn.
Avoid:Fruits: Citrus fruits, cranberries or cranberry juice, tomatoes
Vegetables: Potatoes made with a lot of fat (potato salad, mashed potatoes, French fries), raw onion
Grains: Macaroni and cheese, spaghetti with tomato sauce
Dairy: Sour cream, ice cream and other high-fat dairy products
Meat: Ground beef (chuck), chicken nuggets, buffalo wings
Snacks: Chocolate, high fat chips, doughnuts, or other high-fat snacks
What can you eat?Fruits: Apples, bananas
Vegetables: Baked potato, broccoli, green beans, carrots, cabbage
Grains: Most breads, crackers and cereals. Granola is one cereal that may cause symptoms, but most are okay.
Dairy: Most low-fat products, like low-fat milk or yogurt, feta cheese, goat cheese, or soy products. Cheeses like cheddar and mozzarella may cause symptoms but are not high risk.
Meat: London broil steak, chicken without the skin, fish without added fat
Snacks: Baked chips, jelly beans or licorice, nonfat cookies or other nonfat baked goods
Last updated: 25-Jun-03