These 7 Habits Can Cause Heartburn

by Carina Wolff
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Most of us have experienced heartburn at some point in our lives, and it can be uncomfortable dealing with the intense chest pains and pesky indigestion. Some people experience heartburn frequently, while others only suffer from it after a meal of cheeseburgers and fries, but certain habits can actually make heartburn worse. Instead of always reaching for the antacids or bracing for the worst, you can make small changes to daily activities and eating habits that can help improve your digestion and eliminate your pain.

"In order for our stomach to properly break down food, it needs to be very acidic," says clinical nutritionist Tara Coleman over email. "Typically, that acid is contained to the stomach by a flap called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES. However, when that flap becomes relaxed some of that acid can splash up into your esophagus and create painful burning that we know as heartburn or acid reflux."

This splash of acid can be avoided by taking the proper precautions, not only when you're eating and drinking, but in your daily routine as well. If you're someone who often experiences heartburn, consider ditching these seven habits, which may be the culprit of your frequent indigestion.

1. Eating Large Meals

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"When you eat a really large meal (think Thanksgiving), the excessive food in your stomach can actually cause the LES to relax and the acid to splash up into your esophagus," says Coleman. "This is why slowing down and having smaller meals can be helpful."

2. Drinking Alcohol

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Ever felt some painful burning after a night of drinking? You can blame alcohol for that heartburn. "Drinking alcohol causes the esophageal sphincter to relax, allowing acid to enter the esophagus," says certified nutrition specialist Dr. Scott Schreiber over email.

3. Eating Before Bed

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"When you eat and immediately lay down, stomach acid can drain into your esophagus," says Coleman. "Make sure to stop eating at least 60 minutes prior to bed, and if that doesn’t work, consider propping your head up with excess pillows so the acid drains back into your stomach."

4. Lack Of Sleep

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It may not seem obvious, but your sleep habits can have an effect on your digestion. A study published in the journal Gastroenterology found that sleep-deprived subjects experienced more Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms than people who got sufficient sleep.

5. Stress

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A study from the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that longterm stress can exacerbate symptoms of heartburn. "Although we can’t cut down on the stress in our lives we can learn how to manage it," says Coleman. "Consider adding in moderate stress-busting exercise or going to bed 15 minutes earlier. Small stress-relieving changes really will add up."

6. Wearing Tight Clothing

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Having problems digesting when your pants are too tight? It's not just in your head. "Wearing tight clothing can cause heartburn," says Schreiber. Tight clothing can pressure on the stomach, causing the release of acid.

7. Smoking

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"Smoking also exacerbates reflux," says Schreiber. "Nicotine relaxes the esophageal sphincter and slows production of saliva, which helps neutralize the acid."

Cutting down on these habits can help eliminate heartburn, but it's also best to avoid spicy and heavy foods, which can also cause issues as well.

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