February 02, 2015

Skip the Nighttime Heartburn

Maybe you ate or drank too much while watching the big game? Or maybe you just get heartburn more often at night? Nearly eight in ten heartburn sufferers experience symptoms at night. Why? Because lying down makes it easier for stomach acids to splash up into your esophagus. When you are sitting or standing up, gravity helps drain food and stomach acid from your stomach.

Here are some tips to help ease nighttime heartburn:

  • Eat early. Avoid going to bed on a full stomach. Have your last meal at least three hours before bedtime. Avoid snacking at night.
  • Skip the spicy foods. Avoid spicy, acidic and fatty foods especially at dinnertime. Keep your meals small by limiting your portion sizes. Overeating is a common cause of heartburn.
  • Say no to nightcaps. Drinking alcohol at night increases acid production in your stomach, and it also relaxes your lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES is responsible for keeping stomach acid inside your stomach and if it relaxes, it will open up and allow acid to back up into your esophagus.
  • Elevate your head or your bed. Place extra pillows under your shoulders or use a wedge-shaped pillow to lift your head when you sleep. If that doesn’t work, boost the head of your bed 6-8 inches by putting wood blocks under the bedposts.
  • Lay on your left side. Sleeping on your left side tends to decrease nighttime heartburn, while sleeping on your right tends to worsen it. Use pillows to prop yourself onto your left side.
  • Have antacids available. Keep a supply of over-the-counter antacids ready in case you experience heartburn during the night. Drinking plenty of water can also help neutralize the acid in your stomach.

If you’re experiencing heartburn more than twice a week, talk to your doctor. Frequent nighttime heartburn can signal gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which should be treated to avoid further problems.

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