“Heartburn” is a term given to a feeling you get in your upper abdomen and chest, usually after eating. It gets its name from the fact that it can make your feel like your heart is on fire.
The condition is caused by a variety of factors. The one common denominator: when it hits, you’ll want heartburn relief—and fast.
What Causes Heartburn?
Heartburn occurs when acids from the stomach pop up through the esophageal sphincter (the muscle at the bottom of the esophagus) and enter the esophagus, burning the lining.
Heartburn can be caused by something as simple as eating a big spicy meal. It typically passes as the food digests and as you swallow the acid back into your stomach.
Other causes of heartburn can be digestive or related to other health issues, including:
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) – also called “acid reflux”, this is a condition in which stomach acid regularly enters the esophagus. A weak or diseased lower esophageal sphincter (LES) cannot keep the opening with the stomach properly closed.
- Medications –aspirin, ibuprofen, pharmaceuticals
- Alcohol – stimulates the production of stomach acids but the effects vary by person (1)
- Smoking – nicotine can relax the LES and other muscles of the esophagus, and stimulate the production of stomach acid. In addition, routine coughing that accompanies regular smoking puts pressure on the LES, eventually weakening it. (2)
- Hiatal hernia – when a part of the stomach enters the upper abdomen, it can put pressure on the LES, causing acid reflux
- Pregnancy – pressure on the lower abdomen can cause indigestion and heartburn
- Scleroderma – a chronic disease of the body’s connective tissue
- Sarcoidosis – inflammation of lung, lymph, or other organ tissues
- Heart attack
- Too much or too little stomach acid
What Does Heartburn Feel Like?
Symptoms of heartburn can feel like a hot irritation in the stomach, chest, or throat. It can also be felt as a spasm or shooting pain. If it becomes chronic, disorders of the esophagus can occur due to deterioration of the oesophageal lining. This condition can contribute to esophageal cancer. (3)
However it feels to you and regardless of how often it may occur, you’ll need to know how to stop heartburn. Before you rush over to the pharmacy for antacids, try the remedies below.
14 Home Remedies for Natural Heartburn Relief
Here are 14 ways to keep your stomach acid where it should be: in your stomach!
1. Don’t Overeat
The muscle at the bottom of your esophagus controls the entry of food into the stomach. In a case of acid reflux, this muscle may be weakened, allowing contents of the stomach to go up into the esophagus. If there’s pressure on the muscle from an over-indulged stomach, it’s more likely that stomach acid will push its way up, causing heartburn.
2. Manage Your Weight
Obesity has been definitively linked to acid reflux. Part of the problem is excess pressure (due to surrounding fat) on the abdomen and part is the food that is consumed. Problems with the digestive system caused by carrying excess weight include diseases of the esophagus as well. (4)
3. Apple Cider Vinegar for Heartburn
It may seem counterintuitive as a heartburn remedy, as vinegar is itself an acid, but organic, raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar alkalinizes the body. It also stimulates the release of the necessary stomach acids. Additionally, the cloudy “mother” sediment found in raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar contains enzymes, fiber, and proteins that ease acid reflux. (5) Taken with a teaspoon of honey in a cup of warm water, it is soothing and nourishing.
4. Avoid Foods That Cause Heartburn
Some foods are known to over-stimulate stomach acid. Taken in excess, these can lead to acid rebounding up into the esophagus.
- Alcohol (especially red wine) – relaxes LES and reduces esophagus function (6)
- Milk chocolate – cocoa, fat, and caffeine can all promote heartburn (7)
- Coffee – caffeine can be an irritant and coffee is very acidic
- Fatty or fried foods
- Garlic – garlic affects some people but not all. If you have heartburn or reflux after eating food with a lot of garlic, you’ll know it’s one of the ingredients to cut.
- Raw onions – people who frequently suffer from heartburn are likely to find onions a trigger food. (8)
- Peppermint – relaxes the LES, allowing stomach acids into the esophagus. Peppermint treats an upset stomach, diarrhea, flatulence, and irritable bowel because of its soothing and relaxing properties. If you have GERD, however, mint is contraindicated. (9)
- Processed and fast foods – fats (especially trans fat) and sodium can wreck digestion. Moreover, nitrates and chemical additives cause a greater risk of developing gastric cancer, which is almost always preceded by acid reflux. (10)
You should also avoid acidic and spicy foods. These can cause over-production of stomach acid. Stay away from citrus fruits, tomatoes, chili peppers, black pepper, red meat, cranberries, blueberries, and dairy.
5. Chew Gum
Chewing natural gum (not sweetened with aspartame) increases saliva and reduces acid in the esophagus. Avoid peppermint and spearmint flavors, as these can relax the LES and worsen your condition. (11)
6. Stay Away From Soft Drinks
All carbonated beverages have bubbles that explode in your esophagus and stomach, putting pressure on the LES. Almost all commercial sodas are acidic as well. Replace your cola habit with fresh fruit and vegetable juices or warm digestion-boosting tea instead.
7. Modify Your Sleeping Position
The position of your stomach and pressure on your esophagus have a lot to do with experiencing heartburn at night. In fact, many people with GERD have trouble sleeping.
Tips to try:
- Raise the head of your bed by about 6 inches by placing blocks or books underneath the mattress. If you can’t elevate the head of your bed, you may want to invest in a specially designed wedge pillow.
- Stack regular pillows to create a level incline down to your hips. The incline will avoid putting excess strain on your neck and shoulders, squishing your abdomen and, raising the stomach pressure and promoting reflux.
- Sleep on your left side. Lying on your left side aids the stomach emptying by putting the outflow of the stomach downstream, reducing the likelihood that you’ll experience reflux symptoms.
8. Sleep on an Empty Stomach
Lying down soon after eating increases the risk of heartburn, as the stomach acids are churning away as they digest. In fact, a 2005 study found that people who go to sleep within 3 hours of eating are significantly more likely to suffer from GERD. (12)
9. Cut the Carbs
Simple carbohydrates are acidic and cause inflammation and bloating. If you have trouble digesting gluten, eating carbs may cause you even more digestive distress. One study even found that switching to a low-carb diet reduced the symptoms of GERD in all participants. This occurred is as little as 7 days on the experimental diet. (13)
10. Go For Aloe
Aloe vera is soothing, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory. This makes it a great choice for easing sore oesophageal tissue.
“A. vera gel has been demonstrated to possess several pharmacological actions including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-proliferative, and anti-diabetic properties. Furthermore, A. vera has also shown anti-ulcer, wound-healing, and antimicrobial effects, all of which may be relevant to the treatment of GERD and its comorbidities.” wrote a 2015 clinical study. (14)
In this study, all participants experienced a reduction of all GERD symptoms tested after taking aloe vera daily for 4 weeks: heartburn, difficulty swallowing, nausea, vomiting, acid and food regurgitation, belching, and flatulence.
11. Sip on Lemon Water
Lemon in small amounts and mixed with water neutralizes acids in the stomach and is effective against H.pylori bacteria, sometimes a factor with GERD.
To use lemon water for acid reflux:
Start by mixing one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice with eight ounces of water. Then drink it about 20 minutes before a meal. This will help prevent symptoms that might be triggered by food.
12. Baking Soda For Heartburn
Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) neutralizes stomach acid, providing fast heartburn relief.
To use, mix ½-1 teaspoon of baking soda in 1 cup of lukewarm water (not cold) until dissolved and drink after eating a meal to prevent acid reflux. You may repeat every 2 hours, if necessary. If you have hypertension, ask your healthcare professional before using baking soda as a regular heartburn remedy.
13. Drink Ginger Chamomile Tea
Firstly, ginger is a known superior digestive aid. This is because it reduces inflammation and gastric irritation. Phytochemicals in ginger are anti-spasmodic, reducing gastric contractions that can push stomach acid upward into the esophagus.
On the other hand, chamomile is gentle, soothing, and relaxing. It also eases nausea, stomach pain, and acid reflux. Because it is a relaxant, use chamomile only if for food or stress-related heartburn. (15)
For best results, place 1/2 tablespoon each of fresh ginger and dried chamomile flowers into a tea strainer. Then cover with boiling water and steep covered 10-15 minutes. Sweeten with a teaspoon of raw honey and enjoy.
14. Take a Spoonful of Mustard
Sounds a little odd, we know. Mustard seeds, tiny as they may be, are packed with nutrients. In fact, mustard can cure heartburn in minutes by counteracting acid in the esophagus and stomach. Believe or not, one teaspoonful of organic yellow mustard slowly swallowed down the throat will provide fast heartburn relief.
The remedies above should be your first line of defense against heartburn. Most of the time, they should work without fail, but they’ll only go as far as your lifestyle changes will take them.
Most of all, be very leery of prescription heartburn medication; it may cause you more harm than good. Recent studies have linked the use of these to a significant increase in the risk of heart attack. Over-the-counter antacids are little better, as they contain aluminum and can cause kidney stones with long-term use.
In short, natural remedies for heartburn work better, in tune with your body’s chemistry, and without these hazardous side effects.