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11 meal planning tips to prevent heartburn

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Meal planning may help some people avoid the discomfort of heartburn.

Eating smaller, more frequent meals rather than three large meals a day works for some people.

Having your evening meal at least three to four hours before going to bed may also help.

11 meal planning tips to prevent heartburn

If you have frequent or occasional heartburn, you can help decrease the tendency of the lower oesophageal sphincter muscle, or LOS, to relax, and decrease the likelihood that the stomach contents (and stomach acid) will splash up towards the LOS by keeping in mind a few tips:

  • Avoid lying down for at least three hours after eating. When you lie down, it's physically easier for stomach contents to splash up towards the LOS. By sitting up or standing, gravity helps stomach contents stay where they belong - at the bottom of the stomach.
  • Avoid items that relax or put pressure on the LOS muscle such as chocolate, peppermint, caffeine, alcohol, fatty foods, and foods and beverages that may irritate a damaged oesophagus lining such as citrus and citrus juice, tomatoes and tomato juice, and chilli peppers and black pepper.
  • Avoid eating large meals because the more volume in the stomach, the more likely the stomach contents will splash towards the LOS. Try eating four to five small meals instead of two or three large ones.
  • Avoid high-fat meals because they tend to stay in the stomach longer putting pressure on the LOS muscle.
  • Avoid smoking and avoid alcohol before, during or after meals (such as dinner) that seem to result in heartburn. Both smoking and alcohol relax the LOS muscle.
  • Try waiting at least two hours after a meal before exercising if you find your heartburn seems to get worse after exercise.
  • Chew gum, a non-peppermint flavour, after meals to stimulate saliva production (the bicarbonate in saliva neutralises acid) and increase the natural propulsion of the stomach muscles (peristalsis), which helps move the stomach contents into the small intestine more quickly.
  • Plan your meals to encourage slow but sure weight loss if you are overweight. Extra weight, especially around the midsection, can press against the stomach and increase the pressure going up towards the LOS.
  • Drink a small glass of water at the end of meals to help dilute and wash down any stomach acid that might be splashing up into the oesophagus.
  • Plan on heartburn-friendly drinks such as water, mineral water, decaffeinated tea, non-citrus juices or skimmed or semi-skimmed milk. Drinks to reduce or avoid include:
    • Fizzy drinks. These can bloat the abdomen, increasing the pressure in the stomach and encouraging stomach acid to splash up into the oesophagus.
    • Juices. Tomato and citrus juices can irritate a damaged oesophagus.
    • Alcoholic beverages, coffee (even decaf) and caffeinated tea and cola can increase the acid content in the stomach as well as relax the LOS
  • 11. Eat a high fibre diet One study found that people who followed a high-fibre meal plan were 20% less likely to have acid reflux symptoms, regardless of their body weight. You'll find fibre in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds (basically unprocessed plant foods).
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Reviewed on March 04, 2014

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