Heartburn is something that most adults will experience during their lifetime. It is characterized by an uncomfortable burning sensation right behind the breastbone that often times creeps up the throat, and is a symptom more so than a disease. It is caused by acid reflux, which occurs when the ring of muscle that allows food into your stomach (the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES) relaxes when it shouldn’t. The result is acid from your stomach goes back up your esophagus, which then causes the sensation of heartburn. Think about it…its acid burning your throat…ouch! It’s actually possible to have reflux without heartburn, but it is not possible to have heartburn without reflux. While over-the-counter and prescription medications are available, if you suffer only from occasional heartburn, lifestyle changes and heartburn home remedies may be the route you want to take.
1. A spoonful of baking soda…
A spoonful of sodium bicarbonate, or teaspoon-full to be exact, can help put an end to the gnawing, burning, sensation of heartburn caused by acid reflux. Baking soda, as sodium bicarbonate is more commonly known, can help your reflux and in turn help your heartburn because it is a base substance. It has a pH higher than 7.0, and therefore neutralizes stomach acid. Neutralizing the stomach acid means that if/when your LES decides to be lazy and acid comes up your throat, you don’t get “burned.”
You will need…
-1/2 teaspoon or 1 teaspoon of baking soda
-a glass of fresh water
Mix either a ½ teaspoon or 1 single teaspoon of baking soda into a glass of water that is no more than 8 ounces. Give it a good stir and drink all of the mixture. You can repeat this as needed but should not exceed seven ½ teaspoon doses in a 24 hour period. Also, avoid using this as a remedy for more than a week straight, as it is high in salt and can have side effects such as swelling or nausea.
2. Soothe your stomach with aloe juice
Aloe is a plant used to soothe burns, and people often think of using it to help something like sunburn, but it can do more than that. It may be able to help with heartburn too because it reduces inflammation. This means when your tummy starts getting irritated and inflamed, or your esophagus is getting eaten away at, a nice glass of aloe vera juice may be just the thing to help calm it down.
You will need…
-1/2 cup aloe vera juice
Drink a ½ cup of aloe juice, cool or room temperature, before meals. Keep in mind that aloe can act as a laxative, so unless you’re looking to fit in a few extra bathroom Sudoku puzzles, look for a brand that has the laxative component removed.
3. Chew gum
The Journal of Dental Research conducted a study that showed people with symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or chronic heartburn, experienced relief when they chewed a piece of sugar-free gum for 30 minutes after a meal. This is because chewing gum stimulates the salivary glands, and increases the flow of saliva. Any acid that has built up in the gut is diluted and washed away or cleared out more quickly. The clearance of acid then improves the symptoms of GERD. It is possible that the same school of thought could be applied to occasional heartburn as well. It’s our regular saliva that we swallow that actually makes normal bouts of reflux here and there completely painless.
You will need…
-1 piece of sugar-free gum
After a meal, pop in a piece of sugar-free gum and chew for 30 minutes to help ward off heartburn.
4. Chin up (and don’t lie down)
Heartburn tends to get worse at night, thanks to the fact that you’re lying down when you sleep. Gravity works against you, and it’s easier for the digested contents of your stomach to back up into your esophagus, along with acid. Try elevating your head about 6 inches when you sleep by placing bricks, books, or blocks under the legs at the head of your bed. You could also try a wedge-shaped pillow under your mattress, but don’t simply pile up extra pillows as it’s easy to slip off of them at night. Don’t lie down within 3-4 hours after eating, because lying down with a full stomach makes stomach contents press harder against your lower esophageal sphincter.
5. How, what, and when
Watch how you eat: Don’t inhale giant mouthfuls of food. Take smaller bites and eat slowly, allowing your stomach time to digest and without giving it an excuse to pump out excess acid.
Watch what you eat: You’re probably aware that specific foods trigger heartburn, usually foods high in acid (tomatoes or citrus fruits, for example,) or spicy foods. Avoid these as best you can to ward off
Watch when you eat: Don’t eat within 3-4 hours before bed. Lying down puts more pressure on your LES and increases the likelihood of acid sneaking through.
6. Get more acid
When you have acid burning your esophagus, it seems quite counterintuitive to ingest even more acid. In many cases though, acid reflux is caused by having not enough acid in your stomach, rather than having too much, as over-the-counter or prescription “acid blockers” imply (although that can also be the case, among other factors.) It is the acid itself that tells the lower esophageal sphincter to tighten and close off. If you don’t produce enough acid, your LES is going to think it’s no big deal to loosen up for a little bit. Then of course, you get a reflux of acid into your esophagus. If you think this may be your case, try drinking some pure, raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to see if this prevents your reflux, or cuts it off.
You will need…
-3 teaspoons or 1 tablespoon of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
-6 to 8 ounces of fresh water
Mix 3 teaspoons, or up to 1 tablespoon, of apple cider vinegar into 6-8 ounces of fresh water, and drink. You can do this before each meal (probably the most effective,) before bedtime, or 2-3 times during the day. If you feel is worsens your reflux, do not continue to ingest it. Too much may also contribute to the problem.
7. Eat a banana or an apple
Bananas contain natural antacids that can act as a buffer against acid reflux. If you want to try out the simplest home remedies for heartburn first, try letting a few bananas ripen up nicely and eating one every day. Another option is to try an apple a day. Slice one up and eat it a couple of hours before bedtime to relieve or prevent discomfort.
8. Make gingerroot tea
Gingerroot can help ease up a number of stomach woes, from nausea to acid reflux. Sipping a cup of fresh tea about 20 minutes before a meal can help calm down your tummy and act as an acid buffer.
You will need…
-3 quarter sized slices of gingerroot
-2 cups of water
Slice up 3 quarter sized pieces of gingerroot and simmer gently in 2 cups of water, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the ginger pieces, or leave them in, pour into a glass, and drink all of it about 20 minutes before a meal.
9. Track your triggers
It takes time, energy, and dedication, but tracking what triggers your heartburn may be what ultimately makes it go away in the end. Instead of going crazy with what you eat and relying on over-the-counter medications to keep the acid at bay, keep a little diary of sorts that makes note of what you ate, and if/when it caused heartburn. Also keep track of activities and what you’re wearing (explained in #10.)
10. Avoid tight fitting clothes
Things cinched tightly about your waist or middle can worsen heartburn. If you have super tight jeans on, when you sit down, the waistband is going to sink into your abdomen region. Same goes for tight belts-and even shirts can be a problem for some. This is because all of the above puts extra pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter, which make it more likely stomach contents, will push through and you’ll experience reflux.
11. Smoking + alcohol = heart on fire
Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol can set you up for terrible reflux. The nicotine and alcohol both work to weaken your LES, making it that much easier for stomach contents and acid to splash up into your esophagus. Alcohol is also going to irritate your stomach in general. The solution? Quit smoking, and drink less (if at all.) Doing both will improve your health overall, in addition to relieving acid reflux.
12. Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight increases your risk of GERD, and you’re going to suffer from occasional heartburn a lot more as well. This is because unnecessarily added pounds will put pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter. It will be more likely to loosen, and overtime it may simply weaken.
Mustard is an alkalizing food that is full of minerals, and contains a weak acid in the form of vinegar. Consuming mustard straight, while it may make you grimace at first, may ultimately end up making your smile. Because of its alkaline properties, it will help neutralize the acid that may come creeping up your throat, and therefore may neutralize the pain of acid reflux. It seems to be the most helpful if you’re feeling a bout of heartburn creeping up, or if you’re in the midst of one.
You will need…
-1 teaspoon of good quality yellow mustard
Muster up some courage, and just take that little sucker straight.
14. Snack on almonds
A natural remedy for heartburn from Reader’s Digest, eat some almonds after every meal, every snack, every time you ingest something basically. Try to track down organic almonds if possible. These tasty nuts do something to seemingly neutralize the juices in your stomach, relieving and preventing some instances of heartburn.
You will need…
-3 to 4 almonds
Directly after every meal, every snack, basically every time you ingest something, eat 3-4 almonds afterwards. There’s no need to eat more, unless of course you want to munch on some more, but keep in mind that in excess some people have found almonds trigger heartburn, kind of like how they help tension headaches but can trigger migraines.
15. A cup of chamomile
Having a spot of chamomile tea about ½ – 1 hour before you plan on going to sleep can help reduce inflammation in your stomach, and possibly balance out the acidity levels as well. It also does wonders for relieving stress, which can trigger acid reflux, and will help you sleep through the night as well. You can use instant chamomile tea, or you can easily make your own fresh.
You will need…
-1 teaspoon dried chamomile flower petals
-1 cup of boiling water
-Honey or lemon (optional)
Boil one cup of water in a cooking pot, and then reduce the heat. Stir in 1 teaspoon of dried chamomile petals, and let them simmer for 45 seconds. Remove from heat and let the petals soak for another minute or two before straining them. Pour the tea into a mug, and add a bit of honey or lemon if you wish.
When I was very young, around 5 or 6, I remember hearing my babysitter talk about heartburn, and I was horrified. I asked her if it meant your heart was on fire and she said “yes.” I paused and then said “like, there are actually flames around your heart?” My babysitter nodded solemnly. Now, of course, I know better than that, but it’s still called heartburn for a reason. The searing, burning, pain does indeed feel like someone lit a fire in your chest, and let the flames spread to your throat.
Certain medications may quell the discomfort, but they can have long-term side effects, create dependency, are hard on your system, and often times aren’t even necessary for occasional acid reflux. It may be awhile of trial and error when using natural remedies to find what works best to treat your heartburn, but in the long run, it’s well worth it.
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By Claire GoodallClaire is a lover of life, the natural world, and wild blueberries. On the weekend you can find her fiddling in the garden, playing with her dogs, and enjoying the great outdoors with her horse. Claire is very open-minded, ask her anything :) Meet Claire→
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