Beyond Food: Managing Heartburn Through Lifestyle Changes

Making changes in your diet is one of your best defenses against heartburn. When managing acid reflux, however, it may be just as important to consider when, how, and where you eat.

Board-certified bariatric surgeon, weight-loss expert, and heartburn specialist, Dr. Mustafa Ahmed, of Southern Nevada Bariatrics in Las Vegas, Nevada, shares tips for controlling your symptoms by avoiding your heartburn triggers.

Change your menu

Start with identifying the foods and beverages that set off your heartburn symptoms, which often include:

Note that heartburn triggers are different for everyone, and it may take some investigation to pinpoint yours. If you aren’t sure, try keeping a food diary of the foods and beverages you consume, the timing of your meals, and the symptoms you experience afterward.


Hectic schedules, worry over looming deadlines, and even concerns about your heartburn symptoms can trigger your brain to release adrenaline and other powerful stress-induced hormones designed to protect you from danger.

Your body uses these substances to increase your blood circulation, speed up your respiration, and otherwise improve your physical ability to move away from a threat. These naturally occurring chemicals also interfere with normal digestion and greatly increase your risk of heartburn.

Natural stress relievers include routine exercise, yoga, spending quality time with friends and family, and scheduling breaks for hobbies you enjoy.

Sleep well

Avoid lying down for a few hours after a meal. This helps prevent stomach contents from flowing back into your esophagus, which is the action that causes the burn you’re trying to prevent. Also try using an extra pillow at night or elevating the head of your bed to prevent acid reflux.

Don’t rush through your meal

Gulping your lunch on the run may get you to that next appointment on time but does little to aid in your digestion. It may even cause the heartburn you’re trying to avoid. Take time to chew before you swallow so that your body has time to produce the saliva and digestive enzymes necessary to fully break down your meal. 

Large heavy meals also contribute to acid reflux. Slowing down at mealtime and opting for smaller, more frequent meals may decrease your tendency to overeat and prevent stomach acids from washing into your esophagus.

Go for a stroll

While you should avoid strenuous exercise immediately after eating, light activity following a meal aids digestion by speeding up the rate at which food moves through your stomach. Try taking a leisurely after-dinner bike ride or short walk that relaxes you rather than produces sweat.

Choose a comfortable wardrobe

Wearing loose-fitting clothing helps ease pressure on your stomach and reduces your risk of heartburn.

Quit smoking

Smoking increases stomach acid and affects the ability of your lower esophageal sphincter to prevent acid and other stomach contents from entering the esophagus. Smoking also decreases saliva production which is vital to a healthy digestive process.

Shrink your waistline

Excess pounds, especially those that add inches to your waistline, place added pressure on your stomach and increase your risk of acid reflux. Here at Southern Nevada Bariatrics, we offer a comprehensive approach to weight loss that’s tailored to meet your individual goals.

For further information about treatment to control heartburn, or any of the other services we offer, schedule an evaluation with Dr. Ahmed at our office today.

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