11 Meal Planning Tips To Prevent Heartburn

If you're one of the 15 million Americans experiencing heartburnevery day, there's more to discouraging the discomfort than avoiding certain foods and beverages.

Heartburn relief also has to do with the timing and size of your meals, says The American College of Gastroenterology, which is why planning your meals can be so important. Before we start planning, let's first understand what causes heartburn.

What Causes Heartburn? People who experience frequent heartburn may have weak or excessively relaxed lower esophageal sphincter muscles (LES). This allows stomach acids to enter the esophagus.

Heartburn occurs when stomach acid comes into contact with the lining of your esophagus. It causes burning and can even cause permanent damage. However, heartburn can still be controlled by proper meal planning.

Here are 11 tips to help you plan your meals to prevent heartburn.

Do not lie down for more than two hours after you eat. If you are lying down it is easier for stomach contents of the stomach to reach the LES. Gravity helps the stomach contents to stay at the bottom by keeping them there, whether you're standing or sitting.

Avoid foods or beverages that cause LES muscle weakness (such as chocolate, peppermints, caffeine, alcohol and fatty foods), and food and drinks that might irritate an injured esophagus lining (citrus, citrus juice, tomatoes, tomato juice, chili peppers, and black pepper).

Do not eat large meals. The more you gorge on food, the greater the chance that your stomach contents will cause LES. Instead of eating two to three large meals, try four to five smaller meals.

Do not eat high-fat food as it tends to remain in your stomach for longer. Grateful or fried foods may also be detrimental to the LES muscle.

Do not smoke and do not consume alcohol prior to, during or after meals which can cause heartburn. Alcohol and smoking both weaken the LES muscle.

If your heartburn is worsening after eating, wait at least 2 hours before you exercise.

After meals, chew gum with a nonpeppermint flavour to increase saliva production. The bicarbonate found in saliva neutralizes acids and increases peristalsis which helps the contents of the stomach move into the small intestine faster.

If you are obese, it is important to plan the meals in order to promote weight loss. The stomach can be pressed against your abdomen and push you towards the LES.

Shekhar Challa, MD, chief of Kansas Medical Clinic suggests that after eating, you should drink water to wash away any stomach acid.

Heartburn-friendly drinks include water, mineral water or decaffeinated herbal teas. Avoid sodas: They can cause gastric ulcers by bloating the stomach, increasing pressure and encouraging stomach acid reflux into the esophagus. Drinking juices such as tomatoes and citrus can cause damage to an esophagus. The acid content of alcohol, caffeine and even decaf coffee can cause stomach irritations. They also relax the LES. Eat a high fiber diet! Recent research found that those who ate high fiber meals were 20 percent less likely to experience acid reflux, regardless of how much they weighed. Whole grains, whole grains, fruits and vegetables (essentially unprocessed vegetable foods) are rich in fiber.

It can be overwhelming to try and visualize all the suggested meal planning ideas. This is a sampling day to show you how the heartburn-reducing ideas can be combined.

Heartburn Triggers

Don't forget, last but not least to identify the triggers that cause heartburn. You can't avoid some, but you have to recognize others.