Heartburn is an uncomfortable feeling you can get after eating a heavy meal, when you lay down flat to sleep a night, or sometimes after you have bent over to lift something heavy.
However, heartburn is not actually related to the heart. It is the result of stomach acid washing up against the esophagus and causing irritation.
Heartburn and acid reflux are terms that are often used interchangeably. More than 60 million Americans experience acid reflux at least once a month, according to WebMD.com.
If you suspect that what you are feeling is not gastric upset, such as shortness of breath or pain that radiates down your arm, do not hesitate to seek medical attention right away.
Symptoms of heartburn include:
- A burning feeling behind the breastbone after eating
- Increased discomfort when lying down
- Burning or acidic-tasting fluid in the throat
- Trouble swallowing
- A feeling like food is stuck in the middle of the chest or throat
Here are some quick fixes for heartburn symptoms:
1) Loosen your belt or tight clothes
Stop wearing clothes that are too binding around the middle especially those that do not stretch. That includes skinny jeans or elastic waistbands that put pressure on your middle.
2) Elevate the entire head of your bed
Buy 6-inch blocks to put under the back legs of your bed frame, or place a pillow wedge under the mattress, so you elevate the head portion of your bed. Do not just use pillows alone, as you will cause more pressure if you are bent at the waist.
3) Chew gum
Chewing gum increases the amount of saliva in your mouth, which helps dilute the stomach acid as it makes you swallow more often. A small 2005 study showed that chewing gum for 30 minutes after a meal reduced acid reflux. Drinking a glass of water may also help for the same reason.
4) Drink some skim milk
Drinking milk may temporarily relieve heartburn by buffering the acid, but the fat in regular milk may cause a rebound of stomach acid. So stick with skim, and no more than 8 ounces.
5) Try antacids
Antacids may offer temporary relief. Antacids work by neutralizing and buffering acid in the stomach. Examples of antacids you can buy over the counter are Tums, Maalox, Mylanta, Gelusil or Gaviscon.
6) Try an herbal remedy
The Mayo Clinic says that there are no proven herbal treatments for heartburn, but some still may provide relief. It is best to talk with your doctor to make sure they do not interact with any other medication you are taking. Examples of herbal treatments are licorice, slippery elm, chamomile and marshmallow.
One product called Iberogast is made up of nine herbal extracts that limited research has shown to be helpful in reducing gastric symptoms.
7) Avoid typical foods that cause heartburn
It may take a bit of trial and error to determine what foods bother you. Common offenders are citrus fruit, chocolate, tomatoes, spicy food, alcohol, coffee, garlic or onions.
GERD: Alternative medicine. Mayoclinic.com. Retrieved February 1, 2016.
Acid Reflux Symptoms. WebMD. Retrieved February 1, 2016.
Heartburn Symptoms. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved February 1, 2016.
Iberogast-Product Review. GI Society Canadian Society of Intestinal Research. Retrieved February 1, 2016.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues.
Edited by Jody Smith