CONSUMER REPORTS — About 30 percent of American adults report suffering from heartburn and acid reflux. Consumer Reports says before you reach for meds, there are some simple lifestyle changes that might make you feel better.
To deal with her heartburn, Valia Portela made some real changes to her diet.
“I cut out coffee, to only one cup a day, hot chocolate sporadically and that was one of my favorite treats. Tomato sauce, tomatoes,” Portela said.
Whether your eating habits have changed during the pandemic, or you’re dealing with new sources of stress, you may find you’re getting painful heartburn and acid reflux more often. But don’t just reach for medication.
“Proton-pump inhibitors, like Prilosec, Prevacid, or Nexium, can be really expensive. And when these drugs are used over the long-term, they’ve been linked to an increased risk of heart attack, kidney disease, and dementia,” said Trisha Calvo of Consumer Reports.
But here’s some good news: A recent study found that some simple lifestyle changes can be effective at targeting symptoms and keeping chronic heartburn and acid reflux at bay.
Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important factors in reducing painful symptoms. Getting at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily can help. So can following a healthy diet that includes higher intake of whole grains and lower intake of red meat and added sugars. And if you smoke, here’s another reason to quit. The chemicals in cigarettes can interfere with normal digestion in ways that can trigger heartburn.
Also, consider your beverage choices. People who drank no more than two cups of coffee, tea or soda a day experienced fewer symptoms.
For occasional, unexpected mild heartburn, you can try an antacid to neutralize it. If you expect to get heartburn from a spicy meal, a low-dose histamine blocker like Tagamet, or Pepcid AC can decrease stomach-acid production.
If you experience heartburn more than twice a week, or it recurs for weeks or months, consider seeing your doctor. But tweaking your lifestyle might keep you out of the drugstore in the first place.
“Those little changes made me feel much, much better,” Portela said.
Consumer Reports health experts also advise that if you’re bothered by symptoms at night, or when you lie down, it will help if you avoid eating within three hours of bedtime.