Heartburn is very common -- and very unpleasant. It's triggered when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. It makes 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 some much-needed relief.
Heartburn symptoms can be triggered by certain foods, beverages, and activities. For example, some people suffer heartburn after eating onions, peppermint, chocolate, caffeine, citrus fruits, tomatoes, or high-fat foods. Others suffer heartburn if they lie down after a large meal.
What are your triggers? Find out by keeping a heartburn log.
Each day, jot down your symptoms and the time they occurred. Then note the foods you ate and your specific activities before the symptoms began. Once you notice...
One commonly used "natural" heartburn remedy is calcium. It's also the active ingredient in most 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, it's time to see the doctor. You may have a condition called GERD -- gastroesophageal reflux disease. Frequent heartburn can lead to long-term problems --3 even cancer. But stopping the acid reflux can help prevent complications down the road.
Here is a rundown of some other commonly used home remedies for heartburn, and the evidence on whether they work.
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 many different herbs, including:
Clown's mustard plant
Studies have shown that Iberogast reduces acid reflux, stomach pain, cramping, and nausea. 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?
One study showed that a dietary supplement containing a combination of melatonin, l-tryptophan, vitamins B6 and B12, and folic acid relieved GERD symptoms even better than the heartburn drug Prilosec. A number of other studies have shown that melatonin alone helps protect the digestive tract.
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, will stimulate the stomach to produce more acid. Even though milk might not be a great heartburn remedy, 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.
Is Chewing Gum an Effective Way to Get Heartburn Relief?
It may sound strange, but gum stimulates the production of saliva, which is an acid buffer. Plus, chewing gum makes you swallow more often, which pushes those nasty acids back out of your esophagus. When you pick a pack of gum, just make sure it's sugar-free so you also protect your teeth.