Did you know that 79% of heartburn sufferers experience night time heartburn? The American Journal of Gastroenterology published the results of a Gallup telephone survey based on telephone interviews with 1000 American adults who experience heartburn at least once a week. 75% of those who experienced heartburn at night reported that it affected their sleep. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) affects many people by lowering their quality of sleep and impairing their quality of life.
Heartburn can be described as pain or discomfort in the chest or abdominal region that is felt after the consumption of food or liquids. Some people call it indigestion or dyspepsia and its exact medical cause is difficult to pinpoint. However, there are many things that you can do to help prevent heartburn and to lessen its effects.
How To Prevent Heartburn
1. Quit smoking, especially before or during a meal. Some believe that nicotine weakens the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES). Once food goes past the LES, you’ll get heartburn.
2. Don’t chew gum before a meal as it will allow small air pockets to enter your digestive system.
3. Wear loose fitting clothes at the dinner table. A tight belt or restrictive clothing can push against your stomach, which can lead to food going up past the LES and cause heartburn.
4. Keep track of what food pushes your heartburn buttons. There may be 5 or 10 different items that are common to most indigestion occurences. Once you have that figured out, simply eliminate them one at a time and try to pinpoint the culprit(s). Common foods that cause heartburn are: cucumbers, onions, spices, chocolate, deep-fried foods, coffee, juices and white wine.
5. Avoid alcohol and caffeine consumption with your meal.
6. Drink plenty of water.
7. Relax. Stress and anxiety can promote indigestion.
8. Take a walk around the block after your meals.
9. Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly. It will prepare the food better for the digestive process and slow you down, which gives your stomach more time to digest its content.
10. Do not eat or exercise three hours before bedtime.
The most common way to treat heartburn is to take antacids in either pill or liquid form. The liquid form works faster in neutralizing the excess acid in the stomach. For those suffering from GERD, esomeprazole has been proven to reduce night time heartburn and to improve quality of sleep. The results of this study were published in September 2005 in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.
You’re lying in bed and feeling the burn? Try raising your upper body using pillows or adjustable bed settings. It will help ensure the liquids stay below the LES.
There are other ways to help ease heartburn but studies are inconclusive about their effectiveness. Maybe one of these alternative cures can work for you:
- Have a cup of ginger, chamomile or green tea after a meal.
- Add fiber to your diet.
- Chew gum or suck on a hard candy after a meal.
If all fails and you experience sleep disorders because of your heartburn, contact your health specialist.