Heartburn occurs when the stomach acids used to digest foods are backed up into the esophagus, causing pain and inflammation. Normally these acids are held at bay by a muscle at the base of the esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter or LES. Normally the LES only allows food from the esophagus to go into the stomach.
However, if the LES stops functioning properly, the acids can come back up. No one knows exactly why this muscle stops working effectively, but there are many contributing causes that are attributed to this problem. Many times heartburn cures are focused around prevention by eliminating as many contributing causes as possible.
There are many lifestyle habits and diet choices that are contributing factors for heartburn. To quit smoking is one of the first lifestyle choices you can make to alleviate heartburn symptoms. You can also avoid large meals that can add pressure to the sphincter muscle, and wearing tight clothing that can pose the same problem. You can also wait to perform certain activities like exercising until a couple of hours after eating. Don’t do away with exercise completely however! Exercise can be a healthy way to cure heartburn because it allows your digestive system to work more efficiently and it helps you to maintain a healthy weight.
Avoid eating meals too close to bedtime also, since lying flat allows those stomach acids to back up more easily. If you consistently experience painful heartburn symptoms overnight, you can try sleeping in a semi-reclining position so that your body is not completely flat. The disadvantage for many people is that this is not a comfortable way to sleep, so it does not turn out to be an attractive heartburn cure.
Diet can play an important role in causing heartburn, so dietary changes can be equally effective in curing heartburn. Avoid foods that you know will give you symptoms, and if you are unsure of what those foods might be, keep a food diary for a couple of weeks to see if you can discover any patterns for your symptoms. Some common dietary culprits to watch out for are citrus fruits, caffeine, alcohol, and fatty foods. Others may be unique to you and your symptoms.
If diet and lifestyle changes are not effective in curing your heartburn, you do have the option of medication, such as antacids from the drugstore or prescription medications in more severe cases. With all of the options available, you stand a very good chance of finding an effective cure for your heartburn if you take the time to determine what your triggers are.