Feel a sharp burning pain behind your breastbone when you polish off a piece of pizza? It could be heartburn, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Basically, it means that harsh stomach acid is backing up into your esophagus where it doesn’t belong. Unlike your stomach, your esophagus only has a thin mucus lining. So when those stomach acids splash up, it can be a real pain.
Although anything from pregnancy to stress can cause heartburn, carrying extra weight is a big culprit. Why? Because those added pounds add pressure to your abdomen, which squeezes acid back up into the esophagus. (Wearing too-tight pants can do it as well!) But the good news is that shedding a small amount of weight — from 5% to 10% — can help lessen the burn.
Other ways to stop heartburn include:
Know your trigger foods.
Anything acidic, from orange juice, tomatoes, spicy foods, and coffee, can irritate your already delicate esophagus. So try eliminating them for a while, and see if your symptoms improve.
Eat smaller meals.
More stomach acid is needed to break down large meals, which increases the chance of it splashing back up into your esophagus. Eating smaller meals more frequently during the day means less stomach acid needed for digestion, and may provide heartburn relief. Consider taking half a bottle of Ensure® as one of your smaller meals.
Chewing sugar-free gum for a half hour after a meal boosts saliva flow, which washes acids downstream into your stomach. Just don’t pick a mint flavour, as it’s a well-known heartburn trigger.
Important — don’t ignore heartburn if it goes on too long. If you’re experiencing constant heartburn twice a week on a regular basis, see your doctor.