If you wake up weary each morning and battle heartburn flares during the day, “your tiredness could be caused by a hiatal hernia”, explains John McDougall, M.D., author of Digestive Tune-Up. Hiatal hernias, which affect half of women over age 50, occur when the stomach bulges up through a small opening in the diaphragm (the hiatus), allowing stomach acid to move into the esophagus when you lie down. The discomfort can make it hard to sleep. Here’s how to find quick and lasting relief from this kind of all-too-common cause of heartburn.
Dine in Comfort
Slimming ‘shapewear’ that squishes your tummy doubles risk of hiatal hernia flare-ups, report researchers. Instead, pull on stretchy pants to enjoy mealtimes.
Stop Acid With Rice
Fiber-rich fare quickly soaks up stomach acid before it can move up into your windpipe and cause you distress. That’s why adding 3 cups of brown rice and 3 cups of beans to weekly meals could cut bloating, heartburn and restless sleep in half in 10 days, suggests research in the World Journal of Gastroenterology. Other great fiber rich options include oatmeal, barley and 100 percent whole grain breads.
Do a ‘Chair Pose’
Great news from researchers at New Jersey’s University Hospital: Practicing yoga for a few minutes daily can gently pull your stomach back down into its proper position, easing sleep-disrupting heartburn even when drugs don’t offer relief! One to try: The chair pose. Stand with your arms extended in front of you. Exhale and bend your knees, as if sitting down, and raise your arms over your head. Hold 30 seconds then stand. Repeat five times.
Try Melatonin, a Double-Duty Hero
Melatonin doesn’t just deepen sleep, it also strengthens the valve that stops stomach acid from flowing up, says gastroenterologist Amany Mousa, M.D. No wonder Canadian researchers say taking 3 mg. nightly helps end heartburn flares in eight weeks for 83 percent of women studied. Note: Check with your doctor before supplementing.
Down a Big Glass of Water
This simple trick offers speedy relief from a hiatal hernia: Drink 16 oz. of warm water, stand on the balls of your feet and drop down hard onto your heels several times. Explains Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D., “the water weighs down your stomach, so when you drop onto your heels, it can slide down and no longer bulge through your hiatus.”
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.