With the staggering list of side effects that come from medications designed to treat heartburn, it may be safer to try heartburn home remedies before heading to the pharmacy for specialty medications. But before discussing home remedies for heartburn, you need to first understand heartburn itself so you can better treat it.
What Causes Heartburn?
What is referred to as heartburn is actually the burning of the esophagus, the tube that moves food from the throat down to the stomach. At the bottom of the esophagus is the LES, the lower esophageal sphincter, which allows food through while keeping digestive acids in the stomach. The stomach is lined to deflect the corrosive effects of these fluids, however the esophagus is not.
Heartburn occurs when acid backs up into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest. Certain foods can cause the sphincter to relax, allowing acid to flow through, while overeating can fill the stomach, forcing digestive fluids up. If this acid reflux occurs regularly, it may be a medical condition that should be reported to a doctor. Since heartburn can lead to acid reflux disease and GERD symptoms, which can then in turn lead to Barrett’s Esophagus, it is important you address these symptoms in some manner.
For the occasional spell, however, there are several home remedies for heartburn relief.
Finding The Best Home Remedies for Heartburn
Heartburn can be caused by different factors, so certain home remedies for heartburn may treat one cause while other remedies may treat another. It is best to try different methods, as one home remedy for heartburn may work for some people but not for others.
One trick is to use apple cider vinegar, but there remains some controversy as to how this works or whether it works at all. Some believe that vinegar helps contract the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), keeping acid from seeping through.
Another more widely accepted trick is to simply chew gum for 30 minutes after eating. Chewing gum helps you produce saliva, which in turn will dilute stomach acid and keep juices flowing downward rather than upward.
If heartburn is mild, drinking water may be enough to help. Some doctors suggest eating licorice, while drinking Chamomile tea helps irritation, and Aloe Vera juice heals the damage done by acid burn.
My personal favorite is a preservative free organic aloe vera juice cooled over ice. It provides both immediate and lasting relief. My favorite brand is this one, which you can buy at Amazon: Lily of the Desert Organic Aloe Vera Juice. Some other aloe vera juices have a slightly astringent quality caused by the preservatives in them. While I don’t think this makes them ineffective, that sensation just doesn’t feel right when you’re trying soothe and cool your stomach and esophagus.
It is important to know which heartburn home remedies do what they claim, and which only seem to work in the short term. It was long thought that milk cured heartburn, but doctors are now recanting that theory. While dairy products may calm the esophagus on the way down, the high fat content increases acid production once it reaches the stomach, making the situation worse.
Many people suggest eating mints, because they too deliver a feeling of relief for some types of stomach discomfort. Mints are however proven to relax the sphincter, so they aren’t really a good solution if you’re looking for relief from heartburn. When hearing of a supposed home treatment for heartburn, it should be well researched before being put into practice.
Using Natural Home Remedies for Heartburn Relief
While some natural herbs and foods have powerful health benefits, which are truly an effective heartburn home remedy and which are not?
Some doctors say that ginger root absorbs acid and calms nerves. Garlic is also a powerful agent, killing the pathogens associated with gastritis. Chewing on a garlic clove is effective, as is combining it with apple cider vinegar. Papaya can also be used to reduce heartburn, whether eaten straight or ingested through chewable tablets. Since herbs can be consumed in very small quantities, they do not take up additional room in the stomach, and therefore do not force out more fluid.
Home Remedies for Acid Reflux Prevention
The easiest way to cure heartburn is by preventing it from happening in the first place. Not overeating is the most obvious way, but there are several other small aspects to be considered.
Certain elements are known to either relax the sphincter or increase acid production, such as foods high in fat, tomatoes, nicotine, and alcohol. People who have a tendency to develop heartburn should avoid these things. Carbonated drinks create the same effect as overeating by taking up extra room in the stomach, and should be replaced with water. Do learn more about how diet affects heartburn, read my article on the acid reflux diet.
Eating too close to bedtime or laying down after eating can trigger heartburn. Even bending shortly after eating can cause the acids to pass from the stomach to the esophagus more easily.
Overeating is another sure-fire way to increase your risk of developing heartburn. Eat slowly so you can better judge when you’re getting full and don’t overeat.
Stress is also linked to greater acid production, as well as numerous other health problems. Some prescriptions cause heartburn; so switching medications may help if the doctor thinks it is in the interest of the patient.
If acid reflux is a problem, heartburn home remedies may be able to ease the pain. By understanding the causes, appropriate measures can be taken to treat the existing condition as well as prevent future problems. The esophagus was not meant to contain stomach acids, so it is important to stop heartburn before it causes too much damage.
Though not every suggestion will work for every person, natural solutions are worth a try if it brings relief in the end.