Opportunity Lives

The troubles and solutions for heartburn


60 million Americans suffer from heartburn at least once a month, making antacids a popular and lucrative sales item in all of the country. However, other than swallowing an entire pack of Tums on a weekly basis, there are more things consumers can do with the nasty pain of heartburn. Take it from me; it’s been a problem for me for many years.

1. Take a break before the break

There is nothing that will make you feel more like an Italian than taking an immediate after-lunch nap. In the rest of the world, where we cannot afford the time for a siesta, we might still feel inclined to take at least a short rest after a meal, yet it is important to remain upright after food if you want to prevent heartburn. Lying down after a meal puts pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and can cause acid reflux.

2. Fizzy drinks aren’t your friends

I know that looking at the list of things that will affect your acid reflux can be depressing, which is why I only mention one on this list (other than orange juice, which, if you have heartburn, is a no-brainer). Fizzy drinks such as sparkling water or soda can cause belching, which is a driver for your heartburn.

3. Talk to your doctor

Sustained heartburn can have more serious health consequences and maybe be related to underlying stomach conditions, such as the very prominent Helicobacter pylori. The latter can be successfully cured with antibiotics – plus, they’ll make you take a funky balloon-blowing breath test a couple of months later that will check whether you still have any of those nasty bacteria remaining. Your GP may also recommend an endoscopy to get a clearer view of what is going on in your stomach. (Pro tip: Do it under anesthesia. The non-anesthesia version is only for those with a strong will)

4. Chew sugar-free gum after a meal

Chewing gum promotes salivation, which in turn neutralizes acid. However, not all flavors may be good for you, so avoid those that trigger your heartburn. Adding to that, chewing gum is also a great asset in improving your focus and memory retention, so it’ll be a helpful boost for that post-lunch work concentration.

5. Check your medication

If you’re currently taking any medication, check with your doctor or pharmacist whether any of your current medications might be responsible for heartburn or inflame the esophagus. If there are no alternatives, it’s possible that you might need to add proton-pump inhibitors such as pantoprazole.

6. Take time for your meals

Other than bubbly drinks, you might simply eat too fast. We all have tight schedules and often too little time to finish our meals during our lunch breaks, but consider the downside of heartburn on your productivity as well! Reducing the pace with which you eat can do wonders to reduce your acid reflux.

7. Skip the tight belt

You might have gained some weight (which might also relate to your heartburn) and have been unable to admit that you need looser clothing, but that doesn’t work in your favor. Clothing that squeezes your stomach might very well contribute to your symptoms. 

8. Stop smoking

Smoking reduces the saliva you produce and thus impacts the valve that keeps stomach acid from entering the esophagus, making acid reflux more likely. If your nicotine habit is important to you, consider vaping instead!

9. End late-night snacks

If you are used to a routine trip to the fridge just before bedtime, consider cooking more for dinner. Late eating before sleep combines all the worst aspects of causing heartburn: overeating and lying down after a meal.

Bill Wirtz is the Senior Policy Analyst at the Consumer Choice Center.

Share This