Heartburn—that burning sensation in your chest after you’ve eaten or when you lie down—happens to most of us now and then. It’s uncomfortable, but an infrequent case isn’t cause for concern. You can treat it with an over-the-counter antacid, but consider these natural alternatives too.
What Causes Heartburn?
Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux, which happens when food in your stomach flows back up into your esophagus, otherwise known as your food pipe. It’s caused when the sphincter muscle at the bottom of the esophagus doesn’t properly close. More than 60 million people in the US suffer from acid reflux monthly.
Lifestyle Tweaks to Avoid Heartburn
A few simple adjustments may be all you need to avoid heartburn. Try putting blocks under your bed’s headboard to elevate it. If you’re lying down, sit up. Your symptoms will likely fade. If it’s the middle of the night, prop up your upper body with pillows or a wedge.
Give yourself plenty of time to digest your dinner before going to bed. Do what you can to reduce stress. Get some gentle exercise several days a week. Avoid tight-fitting clothes. Limit your alcohol intake. Eliminate or cut back on carbonated drinks.
A good way to figure out which foods may be contributing to your heartburn symptoms is to record what you eat, when you eat it, and whether you have heartburn each day. Among foods that are frequent culprits are coffee, chocolate, citrus fruits and juice, garlic, onions, tomatoes, and fatty, fried, spicy, and salty items.
Natural Remedies for Heartburn
There are lots of natural ways to deal with the symptoms of heartburn. Try one or more to see if they work for you.
Baking Soda for Heartburn Relief
- Stir a teaspoon of baking soda into 8 ounces of water and drink it. The soda neutralizes stomach acid.
Chamomile Tea to Stop Nighttime Acid Reflux
- A cup of chamomile tea 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime can ward off nighttime heartburn.
Fruit as Natural Antacid
- Some fruits act as natural antacids. If you’re experiencing heartburn, eat a banana or apple or snack on honeydew, cantaloupe, or watermelon.
Ginger for Gastrointestinal Relief
- Ginger is used for gastrointestinal relief; it may work because of anti-inflammatory properties that can alleviate esophageal swelling and irritation. Don’t overdo it, though: too much ginger can cause heartburn!
Extinguish Heartburn with Sugar-Free Gum
- Chew a piece of sugar-free gum for a half hour after eating. It will stimulate your salivary glands to increase saliva, which helps wash away acid.
Herbal Remedies for Heartburn
- Herbs that some people have found to be effective include peppermint oil, caraway, garden angelica, German chamomile flower, licorice root, lemon balm, milk thistle, and turmeric.
Neutralize Stomach Acids with Mustard
- Try a teaspoon of mustard if you’re experiencing acid reflux or feel it coming on. It neutralizes stomach acid.
Supplements to Subdue Acid Reflux
- Supplements were effective in two studies on acid reflux. In one, 100 percent of participants reported that their symptoms went away after 40 days of taking a supplement containing vitamins B6, B9, and B12 plus L-tryptophan, methionine, betaine, and melatonin. The second study found that vitamins A, C, and E—in food and through supplements—might help prevent the condition.