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How to Treat Heartburn
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A good diet and exercise allows your digestive system to be most
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Hi, I'm Doctor Matt Foster and I'm here to talk about how we treat heartburn for About.com.

Heartburn is that uncomfortable or even painful burning sensation that occurs when stomach acid refluxes up past the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, the ring of muscle that should serve to keep stomach contents from leaving the stomach, into the esophagus. There are several ways to treat this condition, most people will have to use several together in order to create a successful treatment plan.

Changing Your Diet to Treat Heartburn

Diet has a major impact on heartburn this is because certain foods create a higher acidity in the stomach, while others cause the LES to relax allowing stomach acid up into the esophagus. In general some foods to avoid are: alcohol, caffeine, acidic foods, foods high in fat, citrus, garlic, onion, coffee, chocolate, greasy foods, and anything else that cause your symptoms to flare. Keep a heartburn record if you aren't sure what your particular triggers are. Foods like bananas and whole grain toast are good choices when trying to get rid of particularly bad heartburn. Eating smaller meals throughout the day keeps the stomach from becoming too full and allowing excess acid from seeping out. Also drinking plenty of water is important because it can neutralize acid in the esophagus and aid in digestion. Never lay down or recline after eating. Going for an easy walk after dinner is a great way to keep heartburn at bay. Finally wait at least three hours after eating before going to bed. This will allow your stomach to empty and help prevent nighttime heartburn.

Lose Weight and Exercise

There are many lifestyle changes a person can make when trying to treat heartburn. If you are overweight losing a few pounds can make a huge difference by taking pressure off of the stomach. Avoiding tight fitting clothing also relieves pressure. If you smoke, quitting has a huge impact because smoking causes your stomach to become more acidic, and it relaxes the LES allowing acid to easily make its way up into your esophagus. Staying healthy in general with exercise and a good diet allows your digestive system to be most efficient. When exercising, however, don't eat right before a workout, and adjust you routine if any of you exercises are causing problems with your heartburn. Avoiding stress, and getting enough sleep can prevent your stomach from creating excess acid. If you are on medications check to see if any of them list heartburn as a side effect. If they do consult with your doctor about switching medication or minimizing the symptoms. Never stop taking medication without first speaking with your doctor.

Medication for Heartburn

There are plenty of very effective medications that treat heartburn. Antacids with calcium offer short term relief for many people. They are over the counter and give a temporary fix, but overtime they can make the problem worse by causing the LES to lose tone. For relief that lasts more than a couple of hours many people use H2 blockers. These are slower to work, but can offer all day relief. Another good option may proton pump inhibitors which inhibit acid production. For those with serious heartburn, or who experience it more than twice a week talk to your doctor about using prescription medication. There aren't some highly effective products on the market and they can make a huge difference for some people. In some very severe cases your doctor may suggest surgery. While this is a good option in extreme cases it should only be considered after other measures have failed to work.

Good luck with your heartburn, and for more information check us out on the web at health.about.com.
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