Heartburn occurs when acid is forced back into the esophagus from the stomach. Symptoms of heartburn include chest pain, a sour taste in the mouth and a sore throat. While symptoms are usually mild and transient, in some cases, they may occur after every meal and lead to irritation or damage of the esophagus. Lifestyle changes are usually required to get rid of heartburn, but medication may bring quick and effective relief of symptoms.
Avoid foods that may trigger or worsen your heartburn, such as fatty or spicy foods, citrus fruits and drinks, tomatoes, chocolate, mint and onions. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends removing these foods from your daily diet if they cause heartburn symptoms. You can gradually reintroduce each food, one at a time, to find out if you are able to tolerate them.
Stop smoking, and avoid alcoholic and carbonated drinks. All of these may contribute to heartburn symptoms. The Mayo Clinic states that smoking prevents your lower esophageal sphincter from functioning correctly, which allows acid to back up into your throat.
Sit upright after meals, and avoid lying down or going to sleep for a minimum of two hours after eating. When this is not possible, you can prop your head and chest up with pillows on your bed, or place six- to nine-inch blocks under the legs at the head of your bed to raise your mattress and keep you semi-upright during sleep.
Eat only until you stop feeling hungry. Avoid overeating, as this is one of the main causes of heartburn. You can try eating six smaller meals each day instead of three large meals.
Exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet to lose weight. The Mayo Clinic warns that being even 10 pounds overweight places extra pressure on your abdomen, raising your stomach and forcing acid into your esophagus. If you are obese, it is especially important to lose weight.
Get plenty of rest and reduce the amount of stress in your life, especially if you notice your heartburn worsens after periods of stress or emotional upset. Aromatherapy, hypnosis, meditation and tai chi may help reduce stress, which can worsen heartburn in some people.
Stop taking anti-inflammatory drugs and aspirin if these medications worsen your heartburn. If you must take an over-the-counter pain reliever, the American Gastroenterological Association recommends acetaminophen, which is less irritating to the stomach and esophagus. Let your doctor know of any medication changes you are considering.
Use over-the-counter antacids, such as Maalox, Tums or Mylanta, for relief of heartburn pain. Antacids work by neutralizing acid in the stomach, providing quick-acting, short-term relief from heartburn. Antacids containing both aluminum hydroxide and magnesium hydroxide are usually the most effective, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Visit your doctor for a prescription for a stronger medication if your heartburn is not relieved by over-the-counter antacids. H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors decrease production of acid and relieve symptoms, according to the American Gastroenterological Association.