How to Prevent Heartburn at Home Without Medication

It starts as a slight scratchiness in the throat but quickly develops into an unquenchable and persistent burning in the chest. Many people are all too familiar with heartburn and its cause - acid reflux, but feel helpless in controlling it. As with any problem, medical or not, the best remedy is prevention. And luckily, there are several medically-approved ways to prevent heartburn.
Listed below are 15 effective ways to keep your stomach acids under control and minimize your chance of getting heartburn.

Why Does Heartburn Happen? 

Heartburn Prevention Tips man with heartburn

When stomach acids leak into the esophagus, the part of the digestive tract that connects the throat to the stomach, they erode the lining of the esophagus and cause heartburn. This usually occurs when a valve called the lower esophageal sphincter that sits between the esophagus and the stomach malfunctions, letting some stomach acids splash out.

Not sure if you have acid reflux? This article can help guide you - These 6 Signs Will Determine Whether You Have Acid Reflux.

If this type of malfunction happens often, the sphincter itself is damaged by acid and becomes more susceptible to heartburn and acid reflux. To prevent this issue from reoccurring, your task is to keep those stomach acids at bay and position the body in a way that will keep stomach acids in the stomach. These prevention tips will help you attain those goals.

1. Adjust your sleep position

Heartburn Prevention Tips sleeping man

Switching from an upright to a reclined position often triggers heartburn. If that is true for you, it’s possible to reduce your risk of heartburn by lying down no sooner than 3 hours after a meal. Once your stomach is no longer full, the chances of the esophageal sphincter leaking will be greatly diminished. 

You can reduce the risk of heartburn even further by propping up your head and upper body with several pillows or a foam wedge. Harvard Health Publishing recommends that the head is 6-8 inches higher than the feet.

Your reclining position matters a lot too. The esophagus enters the stomach not from the center, but from the right side. Therefore, lying on the right side makes it easier for the acid to reach the sphincter, a fact corroborated by several studies. A simple switch to the left side when relaxing and sleeping can help prevent symptoms at night.

2. Opt for cooked onions

Heartburn Prevention Tips onions

First and foremost, it’s important to point out that raw onions can increase the risk of acid reflux. A study that compared identical meals with and without raw onions found that the difference was clear - raw onions increased heartburn and burping across the board. You can try the same experiment at home to test if your stomach is sensitive to onions; just prepare the same dish with and without raw onions, eat them on two separate days, and track your symptoms.

If your heartburn is triggered by raw onions, try to avoid them as much as you can. We recognize that asking for an onion-free dish at a restaurant or even at home is easier said than done. Some foods just don’t taste the same without them. So, if you insist on adding onions to a dish, sauté them first. For many people, cooking eradicates the irritants that cause heartburn.

3. Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes after a meal

Heartburn Prevention Tips woman in pajamas
Avoid putting any added pressure on your belly after a meal. This includes things like close-fitting clothing, such as skirts with tight rubber bands and stiff fabrics like denim that can constrict your abdomen and push the contents of the stomach up.
Sitting curled up or hunched forward can have a similar effect, as you’re essentially squishing and twisting your stomach, so pay attention to the way you’re sitting after a meal too.

4. Stay away from fizzy drinks

Heartburn Prevention Tips mineral water with ice
Carbonated beverages are a frequent cause of heartburn, burping, and a feeling of excessive fullness in the stomach according to research. And the term carbonated refers to any effervescent beverage, be it soda, mineral water, champagne, or kombucha.
The bubbles make you burp, and burps spread tiny droplets of acid to the esophagus. So, it’s safer to stay away from sparkling drinks altogether.

5. Reduce the fat content of your foods

Heartburn Prevention Tips big breakfast

Research suggests that fatty or fried foods, such as French fries, potato chips, pizza, sausage, and bacon, lead to heartburn in more than half of people prone to acid reflux. This happens because fatty foods stimulate your digestive system to release bile salts to break down the fats, and in people prone to heartburn, these bile salts can irritate the esophagus.

In addition, fatty foods make the body release a hormone called cholecystokinin in your blood. This hormone stimulates the digestion of fats, but it also causes the lower esophageal sphincter to relax, and the latter allows stomach acids to move back up into the esophagus and cause heartburn.

Needless to say, eliminating fats from the diet completely is not a good idea, as we all need fats in our diet to stay healthy. Instead, try and lower your overall intake of fried and extremely fatty foods, and opt for healthy sources of fats like fish, avocados, and plant oils instead.

6. Lower your intake of carbohydrates

Heartburn Prevention Tips fish with vegetables

A growing body of research explores the effectiveness of a low-carb diet for the prevention of heartburn too. Having excessive amounts of undigested carbohydrates in the stomach and GI tract can lead to unpleasant symptoms like bloating, flatulence, and burping. 

All of these symptoms are more than just unpleasant in people prone to heartburn; the gas buildup in the digestive system increases abdominal pressure and the burping increases the risk of heartburn. When combined, this can easily lead to acid reflux. Some researchers also suggest that a diet oversaturated in carbs may lead to bacterial overgrowth in the abdomen, which can further contribute to heartburn.

7. Avoid drinking citrus juice

Heartburn Prevention Tips woman drinking juice
Common wisdom states that starting your day with a tall glass of orange juice is a way to get plenty of vitamin C. But when you are prone to acid reflux, drinking citrus juice, such as orange or grapefruit juice, is not such a good idea. Citrus fruit is very acidic and irritating to the esophagus, especially when consumed in large quantities.
In addition, citrus juice can lead to indigestion if consumed in larger quantities. Instead, opt for another fruit juice and quell your citrus cravings with fresh fruit.

8. If you smoke, try to quit

Heartburn Prevention Tips smoking
Quitting smoking is no easy task, and there are numerous important reasons other than heartburn to do so. Still, it’s crucial to point out that the nicotine in cigarettes can relax the lower esophageal sphincter. This way, smoking cigarettes can make you more prone to heartburn. Reducing how much you smoke or ditching the harmful habit altogether may be able to help you experience less or no heartburn.

9. Coffee can worsen acid reflux

Heartburn Prevention Tips Coffee

Researchers found that consuming coffee can temporarily relax the lower esophageal sphincter as well. Further, one study looked at the esophageal acid reflux damage in coffee drinkers and non-coffee drinkers with a small camera. The study found more acid damage in those who drink coffee. 

Still, many people find that drinking coffee has no effect on their heartburn, so like with every food or drink, we recommend that you try avoiding coffee for a few days and see if that helps prevent your symptoms. If it does, try to limit your coffee intake.

10. Mint is another common trigger

Heartburn Prevention Tips Mint
Herbal teas are commonly used to ease digestive problems. But if your specific issues are heartburn and acid reflux, you may want to skip spearmint or peppermint tea. That is because menthol, a compound found in mint, is a known irritant for the esophagus, at least in some people.
It’s also important to keep in mind that menthol is present in chewing gum, toothpaste, mouthwash, and countless other products. If you're super sensitive to this compound, you may want to opt for another flavor in these products.

11. Eat slowly

Heartburn Prevention Tips pasta

Learning to really feel how full your stomach is can be beneficial for those who suffer from heartburn. Whenever the stomach is extremely full, you’re more likely to get acid reflux. Eating slowly and mindfully can help you listen to your body and understand the exact portion you need to feel satiated but not overly full.

If this sounds like too much, you can also try eating 7-8 small snacks throughout the day instead of eating the traditional 3 meals a day. This approach will still give you enough energy throughout the day while also keeping your stomach not so full that it can trigger heartburn.

12. Drink fewer alcoholic beverages

Heartburn Prevention Tips wine
Alcohol may cause your heartburn to be more severe. An extremely dehydrating and irritating beverage on its own, alcohol also increases stomach acidity and makes it more difficult for the lower esophageal sphincter to close completely.
This can be especially damaging when you drink in the evening and then go to bed, as it creates the perfect conditions for acid reflux to happen. Limit alcohol, especially late-night drinks, if you suffer from frequent heartburn.

13. Maintain a moderate body weight

Heartburn Prevention Tips measuring tape

Excessive weight weakens the diaphragm, a muscle under your lungs and above the stomach. Among many other things, a weakened diaphragm can make it more difficult for the esophageal sphincter to shut completely. This, in turn, results in acid reflux and heartburn.

In extreme cases, the pressure in the abdomen that comes with excess weight may be so high that the sphincter is pushed up, causing a condition called hiatal hernia, the leading cause of chronic acid reflux.

Keep in mind that not every case of chronic heartburn is caused by a hiatal hernia or a weakened diaphragm. You needn’t consider weight loss unless your doctor recommends that you do it after your yearly checkup.

14. Take a break after a meal

Heartburn Prevention Tips woman reading a book
For those who often experience heartburn, vigorous activities such as running, weight lifting, yoga, or even carrying heavy bags upstairs after a meal may not be such a good idea. If the activity involves bending forward or jumping, it can send acid up into the esophagus. So, it’s best to wait for 1-2 hours after eating.
Meanwhile, just relax or take a pleasant after-dinner walk if you feel like you need to move.

15. Chew some gum

Heartburn Prevention Tips gum

At first, chewing gum may seem like a weird recommendation for heartburn prevention. However, chewing gum urges the body to produce more saliva, and for people who often get heartburn, this is a good thing. The saliva can actually clear the stomach acid from the esophagus and make your heartburn less likely to occur, or be less severe when it does.

In addition, there is some research suggesting that chewing gum decreases acidity in the esophagus. The type of gum reported to be most effective is gum with bicarbonate which neutralizes the acid. And before you start chewing gum toward a heartburn-free life, please remember that many types of gum contain menthol. If you’re sensitive to menthol, opt for gum with fruit flavors instead.

H/T: Healthline, Harvard Health

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