According to the National Institute of Health, 20% of Americans suffer from heartburn symptoms at least once per week, and nearly half of these people experience symptoms every day.
The pain associated with heartburn is caused by stomach acid backing up into the esophagus through the valve at the entry point of the stomach. The lining of the esophagus is not able to handle the extreme acidity of stomach acid, and because of this, acid reflux can cause considerable damage and lead to ulceration and even cancer.
According to Jonathan Wright in his book Why Stomach Acid is Good For You by, the best way to avoid heartburn and prevent acid reflux is to support proper function of the lower esophageal sphincter. The following are some practical ways to do this.
- Drink more water. Dehydration can lead to acid reflux by causing the lower esophageal sphincter to relax.
- Avoid foods and beverages that can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter. This includes chocolate, coffee, mints, sugar, alcohol and onions.
- Don’t overeat. Excessively large meals put pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter and encourage it to open when it shouldn’t.
- Elevate the head of your bed by 4 to 8 inches. This will keep gravity working in your favor and make it less likely for stomach acid to drain into the esophagus.
- Get tested for food sensitivities and avoid the reactive foods that may be interfering with the function of the lower esophageal sphincter. Consider a trial of eliminating grains and dairy from your diet. These are the two most likely food groups to cause sensitivities.
It’s also helpful to avoid foods and beverages that can irritate the lining of the esophagus. This includes citrus fruits, tomatoes, spicy foods, coffee and carbonated beverages.
For more information on heartburn and acid reflux, I highly recommend that you read Why Stomach Acid is Good For You by Jonathan Wright, MD.
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