Heartburn is very common — and very unpleasant. It’s triggered when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. It can make you feel as though someone has lit a small bonfire in your chest, and it’s burning its way up to your neck.
You’re probably well aware that medications can help calm the burn, but natural heartburn remedies and lifestyle changes may be another way to get relief.
One commonly used “natural” heartburn remedy is calcium. It’s also the active ingredient in many over-the-counter antacids.
If you find yourself popping antacids like candy and you’re having heartburn more than a couple of times a week, or if you are using antacids for longer than two weeks, it’s time to see the doctor. You may have a condition called GERD — gastroesophageal reflux disease or another problem like peptic ulcer disease. Frequent heartburn can lead to long-term problems. It can cause inflammation and strictures in your esophagus. In rare cases, it may even lead to cancer. But stopping the acid reflux can help prevent complications in the future.
We’ll go over some quick tips to get rid of heartburn, including:
- trying over-the-counter medications
- wearing loose clothing
- staying away from cigarette smoke
standing up straight
- chewing gum to help dilute acid
- elevating your upper body
- sipping apple cider vinegar
- mixing baking soda with water
- trying ginger
- taking licorice supplements
Take over-the-counter heartburn medication
There are plenty of over-the-counter (OTC) heartburn medications that are available for use. These medicines come in three classes:
- proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
- H2 blockers
PPIs and H2 blockers reduce how much acid your stomach secretes, which can help prevent and reduce heartburn symptoms. Antacids neutralize stomach acid.
Heartburn happens when the contents of your stomach rise up into your esophagus, where stomach acids can burn the tissue.
In some cases, you might be having an episode of heartburn because tight clothing is compressing your stomach.
If that’s the case, the first thing to do is loosen your belt — or your pants, dress, or whatever else is holding you tight.
Avoid cigarette smoke
You probably already know that smoking is bad for your health. But did you know that smoking can contribute to heartburn? If you’re a smoker and you get an attack of heartburn, don’t light up.
Smoking might be a go-to coping strategy when you’re uncomfortable, but it’s not going to make that burning feeling go away.
Stand up straight
Your posture can also contribute to heartburn. If you’re sitting or lying down, try standing up. If you’re already standing, try standing up more straightly.
An upright posture puts less pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Your LES is a ring of muscle that helps stop stomach acid from rising into your esophagus.
According to 2014 research , chewing gum for half an hour after meals may also help reduce heartburn.
Chewing gum stimulates saliva production and swallowing. This might help dilute and clear stomach acid from your esophagus.
Elevate your upper body
Lying down can make heartburn worse. When it comes time for bed, adjust your sleeping surface to raise your upper body.
According to the Mayo Clinic, lifting your head with extra pillows isn’t usually enough. Instead, the goal is to elevate your body from the waist up.
If you have an adjustable bed, set it at a suitable angle to provide relief. If your bed isn’t adjustable, you can change the angle of your sleeping surface by using a wedge pillow.
Sip apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is another home remedy that some people use to treat heartburn, believing that it may neutralize stomach acid.
One researcher suggested that drinking diluted apple cider vinegar after a meal may help alleviate heartburn for some people. However, these effects didn’t reach the level of statistical significance so more research is needed.
If you decide to try this remedy, dilute the apple cider vinegar with water and drink it after your meal.
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Mix baking soda with water
You might have a heartburn remedy at hand in your kitchen without even knowing it. Baking soda can calm some episodes of heartburn by neutralizing your stomach acid.
To do this, dissolve a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water and drink it slowly. In fact, you should drink everything slowly when you have heartburn.
Take licorice supplements
Licorice root is another folk remedy that’s been used to treat heartburn. It’s believed that it might help increase the mucous coating of your esophageal lining, which may protect your esophagus from damage caused by stomach acid.
Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) is a supplement that contains licorice that’s been processed to remove much of its glycyrrhizin, a compound that can cause adverse side effects.
Eating too much licorice or DGL may raise your blood pressure, lower your potassium levels, and interfere with certain medications. Always talk to your doctor before taking licorice or DGL supplements.
Ginger has been used as a folk remedy for heartburn for centuries. Ginger can help relieve nausea, so some believe it may be worth trying for heartburn, too.
Consider adding grated or diced ginger root to your favorite stir-fry recipes, soups, and other foods. To make ginger tea, steep raw ginger root, dried ginger root, or ginger tea bags in boiling water.
It’s probably best to avoid ginger ale, though. Carbonated beverages are a common heartburn trigger, and most brands of ginger ale are made with artificial flavoring rather than the real thing.
Do Herbal Heartburn Remedies Work?
There isn’t much research into herbal remedies for heartburn. Most of the research has centered on a product called Iberogast. It is made with 9 different herbs, including:
- Clown’s mustard plant
- German chamomile
- Greater celandine
- Lemon balm
- Milk thistle
Some studies have shown that Iberogast may reduce heartburn. It’s not clear, however, which herb in the mix relieves symptoms. Plus, peppermint oil can actually worsen heartburn, so it’s not a good idea to take it if you have GERD.
Are There Any Other Natural Treatments for Heartburn?
Melatonin, a supplement used to aid sleep, has been suggested to help relieve heartburn. But the research is conflicting as to whether it is effective for this or any other gastrointestinal symptoms.
Before you decide to take any herbal remedy or supplement, check with your doctor. Some supplements can have side effects or can interact with medications you’re already taking.
Can Drinking Milk Help My Heartburn?
You may have heard that drinking a glass of milk can relieve heartburn. While it’s true that milk can temporarily buffer stomach acid, nutrients in milk, particularly fat, may stimulate the stomach to produce more acid.
Even though milk might not be a great heartburn remedy, however, it’s a rich source of bone-building calcium. Try fat-free skim milk and don’t overdo it. Drink no more than 8 ounces of skim milk at a time — as a snack in between meals. Overfilling the stomach may increase heartburn.
The Bottom Line
When heartburn hits, many over-the-counter treatments, home remedies, and lifestyle adjustments may provide relief.
Adjusting your daily habits can also help prevent heartburn symptoms from developing in the first place. For example, try to:
- maintain a healthy weight
- avoid common heartburn triggers, such as fatty and spicy foods
- avoid lying down after eating
- eat at least three hours before bedtime
If you experience heartburn more than two or three times a week, talk to your doctor. In some cases, they might prescribe medications or other treatments.