Heartburn is a common ailment, affecting most of us some time during our lives. Medically known as acid reflux, this condition may cause serious health problems, especially if it occurs on a frequent or regular basis. Potential complications of reflux include bleeding esophageal ulcers, esophageal cancer, formation of esophageal scar tissue, nagging cough or sore throat and exacerbation of asthma. While over-the-counter and prescription medication may be necessary to treat the symptoms, there are a number of simple steps that one may take to eliminate or at least reduce the frequency and severity of this painful and potentially serious condition:
1. Lose weight, don’t overeat and don’t eat within 3 hours of bedtime.
2. Avoid fatty and spicy foods, especially chocolate, onions, tomato products, mints and citrus fruits.
3. Give up smoking and limit alcohol, carbonated beverages and coffee (caffeinated as well as decaffeinated).
4. Avoid aspirin and other NSAIDs, including ibuprofen and naproxen.
5. Elevate the head of your bed 4 to 6 inches.
6. Avoid tight fitting clothes and belts.
7. Reduce stress.
If heartburn continues despite an adequate trial of the above measures, or if warning signs develop such as pain or catching sensation when swallowing, hoarseness, black or bloody stools, loss of appetite or unintentional weight loss, medical consultation is strongly recommended.