If you suffer heartburn, you are not alone – more than 60 million people in the United States suffer heartburn at least once a month, and 15 million experience heartburn symptoms every day. Heartburn causes a burning pain in the chest, just below the breastbone. The discomfort of heartburn is usually worse after eating, in the evening, or when you bend over or lie down.
The most common cause of heartburn is acid reflux. This condition occurs when stomach acid flows backward, or refluxes, into the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach. The acid burns this tube, known as the esophagus, to cause the symptoms of heartburn.
There are prescription medications and surgical procedures to reduce acid reflux, but doctors typically reserve these treatments for advanced, chronic, or serious cases of acid reflux. Many patients who experience acid reflux prefer to avoid prescription drugs and surgery and opt for natural remedies for acid reflux instead.
How to Treat Acid Reflux Naturally
Drink diluted baking soda
Also known as sodium bicarbonate or bicarbonate of soda, baking can help alleviate symptoms of acid reflux. Baking soda is alkaline, which means it can neutralize the acid.
Dissolve ½ teaspoon of baking soda into a 4-ounce glass of water. Mix well before drinking it. Drink slowly to avoid gas and diarrhea.
Drinking baking soda occasionally is generally safe, but drinking too much baking soda can be dangerous. Overdoing it can cause alkalosis, which can cause cardiovascular problems. Baking soda is very high in sodium. It can also prevent your body from absorbing certain medications.
Drink diluted lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
Many people believe that acid reflux sometimes occurs when the body does not produce enough stomach acid. They think that the stomach’s acidity controls the valve between the stomach and the esophagus, known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES is usually closed, which prevents food and acid from refluxing back into the esophagus. Reflux happens when the LES relaxes too much and allows acid to reflux. According to this theory, the LES relaxes when there is not enough acid in the stomach, thereby allowing the stomach acids to seep back into the esophagus.
There are no scientific studies to support the use of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to reduce acid reflux. In fact, consuming acidic foods like apple cider vinegar or lemon juice may worsen symptoms.
Those who wish to try this method can mix between a teaspoon and a tablespoon of the vinegar into a glass of water. Taking before or after meals may help alleviate acid reflux.
Drink a glass of milk
The calcium in milk is alkaline, so it could help balance the acidity in your stomach. Milk can also feel soothing to drink.
While drinking milk can provide temporary relief from acid reflux, it contains fat and protein that could worsen symptoms of acid reflux once digestion begins. To avoid this discomfort, try drinking lower-fat milk, which may be easier for your body to tolerate during bouts of acid reflux.
Like milk, certain over-the-counter (OTC) preparations contain calcium. These OTC treatments, such as Tums® or Maalox®, have the benefits of calcium in milk without the drawbacks.
Chew some gum
Our saliva contains various enzymes that make it slightly alkaline. Chewing gum stimulates the production of saliva. What’s more, the act of swallowing may help push stomach contents and acid back into your stomach.
Chewing gum is generally harmless, but avoid consuming large quantities of artificially sweetened gum, as the artificial sweeteners can cause diarrhea in some people. It is also possible to swallow air while chewing gum; ingesting air can cause flatulence. To avoid these issues, use gum in moderation.
Enjoy ginger root in soups, smoothies or tea
People have been using ginger to treat a wide variety of stomach problems for centuries. Ginger naturally soothes the stomach to alleviate stomachaches and nausea; this natural remedy can also reduce the production of stomach acid. While it is not clear how ginger could help ease heartburn, one study found that it might actually decrease the stomach’s production of acid.
To use this natural remedy, grate fresh ginger root into smoothies or soups. You can also sip on ginger tea before or after meals.
Iberogast® treats a number of digestive issues, including GERD, irritable bowel syndrome, stomach upset, nausea, constipation, cramping, bloating, and diarrhea. Made from nine herbal extracts, such as peppermint, licorice root, and milk thistle fruit, Iberogast® may even reduce acid reflux. In fact, one study showed that Iberogast® is as effective as a traditional antacid at decreasing stomach acidity. Another study showed that the medication can reduce the symptoms of indigestion as well as a placebo. The medication can even suppress rebound acidity, which is an increase in stomach acid that often occurs when someone stops taking acid reflux medications.
Iberogast® is an herbal supplement available in liquid or capsule form. Take as directed for relief from acid reflux symptoms.
As with other treatments, take natural remedies for acid reflux in moderation. Taking too much of one medication can worsen acid reflux or cause other digestive issues.
If your acid reflux continues, comes back, or worsens, consult with your digestive doctor. Your gastroenterologist may be able to pinpoint the underlying cause of your acid reflux and suggest an effective treatment plan.