Reflux occurs when acids from your stomach leak out and move up your oesophagus.
Symptoms of reflux include heartburn (a burning sensation in your upper abdomen, oesophagus or throat), nausea, bloating, chest pain and an acidic taste in your mouth.
If you experience reflux more than twice a week, it is known as Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), which can lead to more serious health problems if not managed.
Below are 10 tips you can try to help manage and hopefully stop heartburn and reflux.
10 Tips to Manage Heartburn and Reflux:
1. Avoid large meals – too much food and fluid in your stomach at one time can cause the your stomach acids to move back up your oesophagus. Instead of eating large portions, try to reduce your portion sizes (click here for my practical guide to portion control) at meals and eat more frequently if needed. For example, if you eat three large meals per day and experience heartburn or reflux after these, try reducing your portion sizes at each main meal and have snacks in between. Or if you often experience heartburn or reflux after lunch, try splitting your lunch in two, eating half earlier and half later on.
2. Avoid your heartburn and reflux trigger foods – certain foods can trigger heartburn and reflux in individuals. Reducing your intake or avoiding these foods can help manage your symptoms. Some common heartburn and reflux trigger foods include:
- fatty foods – deep fried fatty foods, full fat dairy, creamy sauces, oily foods, processed meats, fatty meats, battered foods, sweets made with fats and oils
- spicy foods – chili, tomatoes, onions
- citrus fruits & other acidic fruits and fruit juices
- carbonated drinks – soft-drink, soda water etc
- caffeine – tea, coffee, energy drinks
- chewing gum
- mints and perpermint
Note that it is important to work out which foods effect you as everybody is different. You can work out your reflux trigger foods by keeping a food and symptom diary where you write down what you eat and when your symptoms occurred.
3. Eat slowly and chew your food well – eating too quickly can cause you to swallow air with your food and not allow proper digestion, resulting in heartburn and reflux. Aim to slow your eating and chew your food well. Click here for my article on slow eating.
4. Avoid lying down after eating – avoid food and fluids 2-3 hours before bed. If you can’t do this, try elevating your head with an extra pillow when you go to bed.
5. Avoid fluids with meals – allow 30minutes either side of a meal before drinking fluids and avoid fluids with your actual meals.
6. Healthy weight loss if appropriate – extra weight around the stomach region can push on the stomach causing food to move back up the oesophagus. Healthy weight loss can thus help reduce symptoms, however this may not always be appropriate, e.g. if you are pregnant.
7. Avoid exercise straight after eating – your body needs time to digest food before undertaking exercise. Allow at least 30-60minutes after a small meal or snack and 2-3hours after a larger meal before exercising. Note that exercise is still very beneficial for managing reflux.
8. Reduce stress – stress can worsen your heartburn and relax symptoms. Aim to eat in a calm evironment (e.g. not when working) and engage in regular stress reducing activities.
9. Stop smoking
10. Avoid tight fitting clothing – this can put pressure on the stomach area (ladies, this includes tights!). Wear lose fitting clothing, especially at meals.