Heartburn is one of those strangely inevitable things that often comes with getting older. While I never really experienced it growing up, it’s started to become an occasional problem in my thirties.
True to its name, heartburn is characterized by an uncomfortable burning sensation that usually follows a meal. It’s said to be the result of a relaxed esophagus, which allows stomach acid to flow back up into the esophagus and essentially burn the tender skin of your throat.
Are you cringing, yet? It’s not pretty. But just because it’s more common as we age doesn’t mean we have to suffer. Nor are we stuck reaching for over the counter medicines that only mask the problem or make symptoms worse.
Lifestyle changes to combat heartburn
Lifestyle changes is an obvious, good place to start when trying to prevent heartburn. And for me, that started with keeping a diary so I could track which foods triggered the heartburn. For example, I learned that a spoonful of peanut butter before bed means I’m going to have raging heartburn around 2 am.
Common triggers include fried and high fat foods, chocolate, caffeine, soda, sugar, tomatoes, onions, and junk food. Cigarette smoke and alcohol can also be a problem. It’s best to avoid these at least 2-3 hours before bed…which leads me to the next tip.
Don’t eat or drink too late at night, especially heavy or rich foods. I know I can only drink water past about 8 pm and I have to stop snacking even earlier. Two to three hours is a guideline, but that time may be different for everyone and vary according to your own triggers. Your body needs time to digest your food before you lay down for the night.
Make lunch your largest meal and go lighter at dinnertime. Eating smaller, more frequent meals may also be beneficial. Chewing your food well is a great tip anyway, but can also help prevent indigestion.
Here’s a few more tips I’ve learned along the way:
- Add more fiber to your diet to keep your digestive tract humming along.
- Chewing gum after a meal may also aid in digestion or help neutralize stomach acid.
- It’s best to avoid too-tight clothing, like waistbands or belts, or other clothing that constricts the abdomen causing acid to move upwards into the esophagus.
- Another nighttime tip: elevate your body from the waist up, or raise the head of your bed (blocks under your headboard, if possible!) if you suffer from serious heartburn. Gravity works!
- It may go without saying, but getting enough exercise and losing excess weight can make a difference, too, by helping relieve extra pressure on the abdomen and esophagus.
Here are nine natural home remedies for heartburn to get rid of symptoms quickly.
9 Natural Home Remedies for Heartburn
If you’re not currently suffering from a rip-roaring case of heartburn, there are several ways to prevent it from happening in the first place. Things like avoiding trigger foods, eating smaller meals. and keeping greasy, fried foods to a minimum can help keep the burn at bay. If, however, you’re currently experiencing heartburn, natural remedies can be highly effective at relieving discomfort. Here are some natural ways to cool the fire.
Apple cider vinegar
This is one of my favorite natural home remedies for heartburn. While it seems like vinegar might make the problem worse (I mean, it is an acid after all), in my own experience that hasn’t been the case at all. Sometimes heartburn is caused by too little stomach acid as opposed to too much. Not producing enough stomach acid hinders digestion and allows undigested food to creep back into the esophagus. ACV can actually help bring the acid level into balance so digestion occurs properly and heartburn symptoms can subside.
Simply mix 1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar with 8 ounces water and drink at the first sign of heartburn.
While not scientifically proven, anecdotal reports claim that ground cinnamon is helpful at cooling the burn following a big meal (it can also keep blood sugar spikes at bay, which is an added bonus). Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon to 8 ounces boiling water and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain the cinnamon as best you can and sip like a tea.
Peppermint oil has been shown to help soothe the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion and acid reflux. Rather than ingesting it, which can cause irritation, you’ll get the most benefit by inhaling it. Place several drops in a steam diffuser or on an oil diffuser bracelet. Then just sit back and breathe deeply.
Although lemon juice is highly acidic, it’s said to have an alkalizing effect on the body when consumed. Mix one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice with eight ounces of water. Drink it about 20 minutes before a meal to help keep heartburn from occurring in the first place.
According to a 2006 study, chamomile may help lower gastric acidity just as well as an over the counter antacid. And unlike commercial antacids, chamomile may even help prevent secondary hyperacidity (also known as the “rebound effect”) once you stop taking it.
Anecdotal evidence claims that apples may help create a more alkaline environment in the stomach. Eat an apple with dinner or as dessert following a big meal to prevent heartburn.
Bananas, celery sticks, and cabbage can help to minimize stomach acid. Eat after meals or a little before bedtime to create increase alkalinity in the stomach.
Baking soda is a well known natural antacid. To use, mix 1/2 a teaspoon in eight ounces of water to neutralize acid and temporarily alleviate heartburn. It’s best to avoid this remedy if you get heartburn often, or if you have high blood pressure or problems with swelling.
Oxidative stress in the body has long been thought to play a role in acid reflux. Curcumin, an active ingredient in turmeric, is said to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which may help relieve heartburn symptoms. You can either take turmeric in capsule form or drink it as a tea or latte to reap the benefits.
Like some of the other home remedies for heartburn mentioned here, almonds are thought to help neutralize stomach acid thanks to their high fat content. Eating a small handful of almonds at the first sign of heartburn can help clear up symptoms quickly.78