Is Heartburn Ruining Your Sleep?

 
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London’s Leading Nutritionist Lily Soutter (www.lilysoutternutrition.com) offers 9 tips for night time heartburn relief.

Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux, and is one of the frustrating conditions that can contribute to sleepless nights. As much as 4 out of 5 people who suffer with regular heartburn report disrupted sleep.

Symptoms include a burning or hot sensation within the chest, nausea, difficulty swallowing and even regurgitation, all of which can worsen at night due to lying down. Fortunately, some simple dietary tweaks may minimise symptoms allowing for a more restful nights sleep…

1. Avoid large meals at night

Eating until your full to bursting isn’t exactly healthy for anyone, especially if you suffer with heartburn! When there is too much pressure within the stomach, it can promote acid reflux in those with weak lower oesophageal sphincter.

Top tips to reduce portion sizes:

  • Try eating off a smaller plate

  • Try having smaller 5-6 meals throughout the day

  • Eat slowly, it takes our brain at least 20 minutes to register that we are full

  • Eat mindfully without distractions such as the TV. Mindful eating can help us to feel more satisfied after our meals

2. Limit alcohol before bed

Whilst it’s absolutely fine to enjoy the odd glass of wine, if you’re serious about relieving your heartburn symptoms, alcohol really should be limited before bed. Alcohol can increase stomach acid and relax the lower oesophageal sphincter, both of which are triggers for heartburn at night. What’s more, studies have repeatedly shown that even moderate alcohol intake may cause reflux symptoms in  healthy individuals.

Top tips to reduce alcohol intake:

  • Have no more than one alcoholic drink per day

  • Infuse water overnight with berries, mint, watermelon, cucumber or lemon for a tastier non-alcoholic beverage

3. Switch your coffee for herbal tea

Caffeine is not only detrimental when it comes to a restful nights sleep, but may also be the culprit for heartburn at night. Some research has shown that caffeine may weaken the lower oesophageal sphincter, which can ultimately increase the risk of symptoms. Fortunately for the coffee addicts amongst us, the evidence is mixed and associated symptoms may very much depend on the individual.

Top tips to cut back on caffeine:

  • Try switching your coffee for herbals teas

  • Reduce caffeine intake slowly to minimise withdrawal symptoms

4. Minimise citrus juice consumption.

As much as 72% of sufferers with heartburn find that citrus juice aggravates their symptoms. Whilst citrus juice isn’t necessarily the cause of heartburn, it can irritate the lining of the oesophagus, which may worsen symptoms.

Top tips to minimise citrus juice intake:

  • Choose healthy vegetable juice such as beetroot, carrot, green vegetable juice or strawberry, pear and apple  

5. Avoid raw onion and garlic

There is some evidence to show that acid reflux may worsen after consuming a meal containing raw onion or garlic. It has been suggested that they irritate the lining of the oesophagus, however it is still very dependent on the individual. 

Top tips to minimise raw onion and garlic:

  • Try infusing onion and garlic into drizzling oils

  • Ensure your onion and garlic is well-cooked

6. Limit carbonated beverages

Soft drinks are highly acidic and are strongly associated with night time heartburn. It’s not just sugary drinks you need to watch out for; carbonated water has also been shown to weaken the lower oesophageal sphincter, which can trigger symptoms.

Top tip to limit intake of carbonated:

  • Infuse water overnight with your favourite berries for a tastier beverage

7. Avoid high fat foods prior to bed

Whilst many can find it hard to digest fatty or fried food before bed, those suffering nighttime heart burn really do struggle. High fat foods can delay gastric emptying, which increases stomach pressure and in turn promotes heartburn.

Top tips to limit fatty meals:

- Cooking from scratch gives you full control over fat content

- A good portion size of fat per meal is 1 thumb for women and 2 thumbs for men

- Avoid deep-fried foods

8. Minimise spicy foods

Spicy foods are a well-known trigger of heartburn and can irritate the oesophagus.

Top tips for producing tasty meals without spice:

- Switch to herbs such as oregano, thyme, chives, parsley, tarragon, parsley

9. Don’t skimp on fibre

Reaching our daily fibre intake may help to alleviate or prevent symptoms associated with heartburn. A study involving 65, 363 people showed that an increased fibre intake was significantly associated with improved reflux symptoms. Fibre is an essential component of a healthy diet, however there is also evidence to suggest that too much fermentable fibre may symptoms.  Despite this we should all be consuming 30g of fibre per day for optimal health.

Top tips for fibre intake:

- Choose whole grains, beans, lentils, chick peas, fruit and vegetables

- Keep a food diary and note any sources of fibre which trigger symptoms