What To Do If You Have Frequent Heartburn

Heartburn is a painful, burning sensation in the chest that is usually more prominent after eating, in the evening, or when lying down, according to the Mayo Clinic. During an episode of heartburn, a person may also experience a bitter taste in their mouth. Heartburn is very common, and an occasional bout is completely normal and can be managed by lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications. Frequent heartburn, however, may be a sign of a more serious medical condition.

If you're experiencing frequent heartburn, there are some things you can do at home to ease your symptoms. Avoid large meals and eating late at night. Consider cutting out foods that trigger your heartburn, which may include spicy foods, citrus products, onions, fatty or fried foods, peppermint, chocolate, carbonated drinks, coffee, and alcohol. 

Wait at least three hours before lying down after eating meals and elevate the head of your bed if you regularly have heartburn at night (via Mayo Clinic). Maintain a healthy weight, avoid tight-fitting clothing, and don't smoke. If lifestyle changes aren't enough to keep heartburn at bay, you can try over-the-counter medications like antacids or proton pump inhibitors.

When to see a doctor

If symptoms of heartburn still persist despite lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications, you should consider seeing a doctor. This is especially true if you have heartburn more than twice a week, difficulty swallowing, persistent nausea or vomiting, or if you've experienced weight loss due to lack of appetite or difficulty eating. These may be signs of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), per the Mayo Clinic.

GERD affects about 20% of the U.S. population, according to the Cleveland Clinic. GERD itself isn't dangerous but if not treated, it can lead to complications like esophagitis, Barrett's esophagus, and even esophageal cancer. Many over-the-counter medications can treat GERD, but your doctor can prescribe you prescription-strength formulas if needed. While GERD can typically be controlled with medications, surgery may be needed in some cases. Your doctor will help you come up with a treatment plan that is best for you.