Blog/Heartburn 101: Causes, Relief and Prevention
7/17/2023 | 3 min read

Heartburn 101: Causes, Relief and Prevention

A comprehensive guide to heartburn management

Woman touching her chest with heartburn pain.

You know that burning sensation in your chest that just won’t quit? That’s likely heartburn talking. Heartburn, or acid reflux, occurs just behind your breastbone when stomach acid travels up your esophagus – the tube where food travels from your mouth to your stomach. The symptoms of heartburn are often worse after eating, especially in the evening or when lying down. 

Before you panic, occasional heartburn is completely normal and common. And more times than not, the pain and discomfort can be managed by lifestyle changes and medications. Whether it’s an occasional annoyance or persistent problem, understanding its causes, finding relief and implementing prevention strategies are essential to managing the uncomfortable condition. 

Understanding heartburn causes

Several factors contribute to the phenomenon of heartburn. 

Diet: Some foods are just heartburn troublemakers. Spicy dishes, greasy delights, citrus fruits, chocolate, caffeine, tomatoes and fizzy drinks can all kickstart the symptoms. We all love a Big Mac from time to time, but frequent consumption of them might trigger that uncomfortable feeling in your chest. Keeping a food diary and identifying personal triggers can help you make dietary adjustments and minimize heartburn episodes. 

Why do greasy, fatty foods cause heartburn? They prevent the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) from fully tightening. This creates an opening for stomach acids to flow back through, thus, giving you heartburn.

Lifestyle choices: Lifestyle choices, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and obesity, can increase the risk of heartburn. These can cause the lower esophageal sphincter (there it is again)to weaken.

Pregnancy: Hormonal changes during pregnancy also cause the LES to relax, leading to increased instances of heartburn. Expectant mothers can find relief through lifestyle modifications or consulting with a healthcare provider for safe treatment options. 

Other triggers include eating a large meal, lying down immediately after eating and wearing tight clothes. Basically, if you’re experiencing heartburn, it usually means your LES isn’t doing what it’s supposed to.

Relief measures for heartburn

When heartburn strikes, finding relief becomes a top priority. Here are some effective measures to alleviate discomfort:

Over-the-counter medication: Antacids like Tums or Rolaids, work like magic to neutralize stomach acid and offer temporary relief. H2 blockers, like ranitidine or famotidine, reduce acid production and provide longer-lasting relief. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), such as omeprazole or esomeprazole can offer relief for more severe cases. 

Natural remedies: Several natural remedies can provide relief from heartburn symptoms. Aloe vera juice, chamomile tea and ginger have soothing properties for the digestive system. Keep in mind that what works for one person may not work for another, so it’s wise to consult with a healthcare professional if the discomfort persists. 

Lifestyle adjustments: Simple changes in habits can make a significant difference in managing heartburn. Elevating the head of the bed, avoiding lying down immediately after meals, eating smaller portions and wearing loose-fitting clothing can help keep heartburn at bay.

Stress reduction: Stress and anxiety can often make heartburn symptoms worse. Incorporating stress management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises and regular physical activity can help reduce stress levels. 

Prevention strategies for heartburn

Preventing heartburn is key to maintaining a healthy digestive system and overall well-being. 

Adopt a heartburn-friendly diet: Choose a diet that is low in acidic and spicy foods. Opt for lean meats, fruits with low acid content (like bananas and melons), vegetables, whole grains and non-citrus beverages. 

Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight can put pressure on the stomach, leading to heartburn. Regular exercise and a balanced diet can contribute to maintaining your weight and can reduce the risk of heartburn. 

Avoid triggering habits: Quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption. And refrain from anything that you recognize as a trigger to your heartburn symptoms. Additionally, try to avoid tight-fitting clothing that puts pressure on the abdomen. 

Eat mindfully: Before you rush through your next meal, slow down a little. Chew your food thoroughly. Taking smaller bites and savoring each mouthful can prevent overeating and reduce the chances of heartburn. 

How can Agile help manage your heartburn?

Looking to manage heartburn and enjoy a more comfortable life? Agile combines convenience and expert medical guidance to help you overcome the challenges of heartburn. Our team of licensed providers specializes in addressing your heartburn concerns to deliver effective, personalized same-day heartburn treatment via no appointment messaging or real-time consults. 

Simply fill out a brief patient intake form for an expert provider to review and you’re on your way to heartburn relief.

Ready for your rapid, personalized treatment? Click here!