What to do about heartburn

Do you ever experience a burning pain in the chest, especially after eating? Is it worse at night, after lying down or bending over?

You may have heartburn.


Heartburn is also known as Gastro-Esophageal Acid Reflux, or GERD. A weak muscle ring (sphincter) where the food pipe (esophagus) meets the stomach is a common cause. Stomach acid can enter the esophagus and irritate it, causing heartburn.

Here is what you can do to lessen the pain:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Extra pounds put pressure on your stomach, forcing acid into your esophagus.

  • Avoid tight clothing, which also puts pressure on your abdomen.

  • Cut down on foods containing chocolate and mint; they can relax the lower esophageal sphincter.

  • Avoid lying down after a meal for at least three hours; avoid late meals.

  • Raise the head of your bed or insert a wedge between the mattress and box spring to elevate your body from the waist up. Raising your head with extra pillows usually does not work.

  • Avoid smoking. Smoking decreases the lower esophageal sphincter's ability to work.

  • See a doctor if symptoms persist.

    Seek immediate help if you experience severe chest pain or pressure, especially if you also have arm or jaw pain or difficulty breathing. Chest pain may be a symptom of a heart attack.