Experts believe that up to 60 million people in the United States suffer from heartburn at least once a month. Even more startling is the fact that these same experts believe that this condition affects up to 15 million people every single day!
Why is Heartburn and What Does it Feel Like?
Heartburn is triggered when acid from your stomach begins to back up into your esophagus (throat). It often causes a burning sensation in your upper abdomen and chest, and it’s sometimes painful enough that some people mistake it for heart-related chest pain.
Why Does Heartburn Happen?
Sometimes called acid indigestion, heartburn can be triggered by something you eat or may be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Heartburn affect more than 60 million Americans annually, according to WebMD. However, while it’s extremely uncomfortable, numerous heartburn remedies exist that can provide some relief quickly.
What are Some Heartburn Remedies that Really Work?
Not sure where to start when it comes to heartburn relief? Here are 14 tried-and-true remedies you can try to prevent and treat this condition. Best of all, most of these remedies are quite affordable.
The first remedy? You might have a pack of it lying around…
Remedy #1 – Chew Sugar-free Gum
Chewing gum sounds simple enough. Maybe even too simple. But, science says it actually works. So, when you feel that familiar burn coming on, pop in a piece of chewing gum.
Studies Show Chewing a Piece of Gum Can Reduce Acidity
Multiple studies show that popping in a piece of sugar-free gum and chewing it can reduce the acidity in your esophagus. Chewing gum that includes bicarbonate as an ingredient is particularly effective.
Why it Works
Chewing a piece of gum (with or without bicarbonate) works because it helps increase the production of saliva. Researchers believe that this can help clear the acid from your esophagus.
Bicarbonate gum is extra effective. Why? Because bicarbonate is capable of neutralizing refluxed stomach acid. Considering your saliva already contains bicarbonate, using bicarbonate gum is therefore a doubly effective method for neutralizing acid.
However, while gum will temporarily relieve heartburn, it’s not a cure. While this method is low cost, the following heartburn remedy is entirely free…
Remedy #2 – Elevate Your Head and Upper Body
Heartburn attacks are common at night, particularly if you’ve eaten a large meal before you went to bed. Unfortunately, this can make it tough to fall asleep or even wake up you in the night.
Raise the Head of the Bed
One study showed that by raising the head of the bed, patients had fewer heartburn and reflux symptoms and episodes. An analysis of multiple controlled studies also concluded that elevating your head at night is effective at relieving nighttime heartburn.
How to Elevate Your Head and Upper Body
If you’re having attacks of heartburn at night, there are a couple of ways you can keep your head and upper body elevated. Some people try to get relief by adding an extra pillow or two. While this method is okay, your goal should be to elevate the entire upper body for the best results.
For those who have adjustable beds, it’s as easy as simply making adjustments until your upper body is elevated enough to offer some relief. However, even if you don’t have an adjustable bed, a wedge pillow is an easy and cost-effective way to change your sleeping angle to reduce problems with acid reflux and heartburn.
Remedy #3 – Weight Loss
Located right above the stomach is the diaphragm, which helps strengthen your lower esophageal sphincter. This muscle works to keep stomach acid from leaking into your esophagus.
Too Much Belly Fat Causes Pressure in the Abdomen
Added belly fat can add pressure on the abdomen, pushing your lower esophageal sphincter upward. This means it no longer has the support from your diaphragm muscle. When this happens, it’s known as a hiatus hernia.
In short, the added pressure from this extra weight can increase the odds of your stomach spitting stomach acid back into your throat. For this reason, overweight individuals, as well as pregnant women, have a higher risk of dealing with heartburn and acid reflux.
Extra Pounds Increase Your Risk and Weight Loss Can Help
Multiple studies show a link between additional extra pounds – particularly around the abdomen – and a higher risk of reflux, heartburn, and GERD. Conversely, studies also show that by losing weight, you can relieve the symptoms of heartburn.
Of course, you should always talk to your physician before starting a new diet or exercise plan.
One way to reduce the odds of heartburn (that may also help you lose weight)? It’s coming right up…
Remedy #4 – Eat Smaller Portions
Overeating puts a lot of pressure on your stomach, whether you’re carrying a few extra pounds, pregnant, dealing with bloating, or you’re not spreading out your meals as you should through the day. If your body senses you’ve eaten a lot of food, it increases acid production to help with digestion.
How Do Large Meals Cause Heartburn?
Therefore, when you’ve eaten a large meal, contents of your stomach and acid can leak out and travel into the esophagus.
It’s simply because the stomach is overstretched and cannot hold an infinite amount of food and acid. These substances have to go somewhere, usually the throat. The result? Heartburn.
Avoid Eating Heavy Meals at Night
Many people in the United States eat their largest meal in the evening, which is why heartburn often occurs near bedtime. Now, overeating later in the day at dinnertime is often a result of not eating enough food throughout your day. Furthermore, regularly overeating leads to weight gain, which also increases your risk of heartburn.
To avoid that pre-bedtime heartburn, avoid eating heavy meals at night. You may want to make lunch your larger meal and stick with lighter fare in the evening. And think twice before snacking a lot right before you head to bed, too.
Space Out Food Intake
To prevent overeating and eating larger meals in the evening, work on spacing out food intake. Don’t skip breakfast and lunch and then eat a day’s worth of calories at night. If you usually eat two or three large meals daily, try eating four to six smaller meals.
This method may not only help combat heartburn, but it can provide a host of other health benefits as well, like stabilizing blood sugar (glucose) levels. As you make modifications to your diet, you might want to consider the following modification as well…
Remedy #5 – Avoid or Limit Alcohol
If you already have heartburn and acid reflux, drinking alcohol can make it worse.
How Does Alcohol Worsen Heartburn?
When you drink alcohol, it increases stomach acid and relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter. Now, this sphincter normally constricts enough during digestion that it keeps stomach acid from backing up into the throat. So, when relaxed, it reduces the ability of your esophagus to keep the heartburn-causing acid out.
Even Moderate Alcohol Intake Can Be a Problem
Drinking even just a moderate amount of alcohol can result in heartburn and reflux, even if you’re otherwise healthy. Additional studies have shown that drinking beer or wine can increase your symptoms when compared to drinking water.
The next remedy for heartburn? It’s as simple as switching up your sleeping position…
Remedy #6 – Stop Sleeping on Your Right Side
A handful of studies show that heartburn and reflux can be worse if you sleep on your right side at night.
How Does Sleeping Position Affect Heartburn?
Scientists believe it’s all likely related to your anatomy. Your esophagus enters on the right side of your stomach. So if you’re sleeping on your right side, stomach acid can cover your lower esophageal sphincter, increasing the risk of acid leaking back through it.
Try Falling Asleep on Your Left Side Instead
If you sleep on your left side, your lower esophageal sphincter stays above the stomach acid level, reducing the risk of heartburn.
Although you probably can’t control the positions you roll into as you sleep, try falling asleep on your left side. You’ll likely be more comfortable as you drift off and less likely to deal with heartburn that keeps you from getting your shut-eye.
If you’re someone who absolutely needs a snack before you fall asleep, be sure to avoid the following foods…
Remedy #7 – Limit Foods that Can Increase Stomach Acid
Certain foods have the potential to increase stomach acid, so limiting those foods can help you reduce problems with heartburn and reflux.
Common Foods that May Increase Stomach Acid
Common foods that are associated with increasing stomach acid and potentially causing heartburn include:
- Packaged foods that include artificial flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives
- Fried foods or foods that contain refined oils
- Citrus fruits
- Tomatoes and tomato products
- Coffee and other beverages containing caffeine
Just because you have heartburn doesn’t mean you need to avoid these foods completely. Simply limiting these foods can help.
Keep a Food Journal
Since everyone reacts different to foods, it may take a little trial and error to figure out which foods cause you to experience heartburn. So, it’s a good idea to take note of what you eat and how it affects you.
Make a note of the foods you eat and record when you deal with heartburn. After a couple of weeks, see if there are any patterns between eating certain foods and the heartburn symptoms you experience. If so, you may want to limit those foods or eliminate them from your diet to stop heartburn in the future.
The following remedy for heartburn? It all has to do with the clothes you wear…
Remedy #8 – Loosen Your Clothing
Heartburn occurs when the contents of the stomach move up into the esophagus. When this process occurs, stomach acids can burn that tissue, giving you that burning sensation. Sometimes heartburn occurs when tight clothing compresses the stomach, forcing that stomach acid up into the throat.
Skip the Tight Clothing
If you deal with heartburn, you may be able to relieve it by skipping the tight clothing. If you’re wearing a belt, loosen it. Avoid those skin-tight jeans that dig into your stomach. Skip undergarments like shapewear that squeeze your stomach too tightly or even super-tight compression leggings.
According to some estimates, about half of adults in the United States drink at least one soda a day, which can be a big obstacle when it comes to fighting heartburn relief…
Remedy #9 – Reduce Your Intake of Carbonated Drinks
In one observational study, drinking carbonated soft drinks was associated with an increase in acid reflux symptoms like heartburn. It therefore stands to reason that reducing your intake of all types of carbonated drinks – whether it’s colas or water – can help.
Carbonated Drinks Weaken the Lower Esophageal Sphincter
Why are carbonated drinks a problem? Studies have shown that they can weaken your lower esophageal sphincter temporarily when compared to drinking water. When this muscle is weakened, it’s easier for stomach acid to push past this muscle and make its way into the throat.
But that’s not all.
When you drink a carbonated water or soda, that carbon dioxide gas can result in more belching. This action may increase the amount of acid that is able to escape from the stomach into your esophagus, causing heartburn. Add that to a spicy, high-fat, or acidic meal, and you’ve really got a problem.
Rather, try sticking to the following foods instead…
Remedy #10 – Stick with a Low-Carb Diet
We’ve all heard about the benefits of low-carb diets, but a growing amount of research suggests that eating a low-carb diet may help relieve heartburn and other symptoms associated with acid reflux.
Undigested Carbs are a Problem
According to experts, undigested carbs could result in bacterial overgrowth that elevates the pressure in your stomach. In fact, some believe it could be one of the main causes of heartburn and acid reflux. Other studies show that bacterial overgrowth in the gut is a result of an impairment in the digestion and absorption of carbs.
If too many carbs stay in your digestive system undigested, it also results in bloating and gas. This results in more belching, which may also increase the risk of acid escaping into the esophagus from the stomach.
Low-Carb Diets Improve Symptoms
Several small studies show that eating a low-carb diet can help reduce the symptoms of reflux, including heartburn. That doesn’t mean you need to completely eliminate carbohydrates, though; in fact, far from it! Healthy carbs in moderate amounts can be good for you. That being said, limiting the carbs you eat—especially unhealthy carbs—with each meal may help.
While you’re eating, you may want to reach for the following…
Remedy #11 – Take a Quality Probiotic
Heartburn is generally associated with acid reflux, which means acid from the stomach escapes into your throat, which can burn those tissues. Probiotics have recently been studied as an effective therapy for reducing problems with acid reflux and heartburn.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are “good” bacteria that prevent the growth of “bad” bacteria. This fact is important as bad bacteria in the gut can result in illness and unwanted symptoms, such as acid reflux.
Studies on Probiotics for Heartburn
One study specifically looked at 1,000 adults dealing with heartburn. When they were given probiotics combined with Stevia and digestive enzymes, they saw a reduction in heartburn and acid reflux pain.
What are Sources of Probiotics?
Probiotics are found in foods like yogurt. You can also take them in the form of a supplement. The following over-the-counter supplements may also help combat heartburn…
Remedy #12 – Antacids
One of the most commonly used over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for heartburn? Antacids. They work by helping to neutralize stomach acid.
Common Forms of Antacids
A few of the most common forms of antacids include:
- Chewable tablets
- Tablets dissolved in water that you drink
A few of the most popular brands of antacids include:
Before You Take Antacids
Although antacids are safe for most individuals, if you have a medical condition, you should speak to your physician before taking antacids containing magnesium carbonate or aluminum hydroxide.
Individuals with heart failure often have sodium restrictions to prevent fluid buildup, and antacids may contain a significant amount of sodium. Aluminum may build up in individuals with kidney failure. Therefore, it’s always best to play it safe and talk to a doctor first.
While talking to your doctor, you may ask about the following heartburn remedies that are sometimes only available through prescriptions…
Remedy #13 – H2 Receptor Blockers
H2 receptor blockers are available both over the counter and via prescription. They are used to treat conditions that result in extra stomach acid and may be used to treat heartburn and reflux in some cases.
How They Work
This medicine works by triggering chemical reactions in stomach cells, so they’re unable to make as much acid. Over a 24-hour period, they can decrease the amount of stomach acid secretions by as much as 70%.
Remember: reducing the acid in your stomach can help relieve heartburn and reflux.
Common H2 Receptor Blocker Options
Several of the common H2 receptor blockers available include:
- Cimetidine (Tagamet HB, Tagamet)
- Famotidine (Pepcid AC, Pepcid)
- Nizatidine (Axid)
Potential Side Effects
Usually side effects experienced when taking H2 receptor blockers are very mild, and in most cases, they go away. However, a few side effects that could occur if you take these medicines include:
- Dry mouth
- Runny nose
- Problems sleeping
- Difficulty with urination
If you find that these medications aren’t to your liking, you may try the following remedy instead…
Remedy #14 – Proton Pump Inhibitors
Other medications available over the counter are proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which also work by reducing and blocking stomach acid production. By reducing acid production, these drugs help relieve heartburn.
PPIs take a bit longer to begin relieving heartburn symptoms. However, considering they work over a period of 4-12 weeks, they generally offer longer relief from heartburn than H2 receptor blockers do.
OTC Proton Pump Inhibitors
PPIs are available by prescription and over the counter. Some OTC proton pump inhibitors include:
- Esomeprazole (Nexium)
- Omeprazole (Prilosec)
- Lansoprazole (Prevacid 24 HR)
What’s most important to remember if you’re battling heartburn?…
Heartburn Relief is Possible (and Totally Affordable)
Heartburn, triggered by stomach acid backing up into the throat, results in significant discomfort. If it occurs in the evening, it can mean difficulty resting. However, it’s possible to relieve your symptoms with heartburn remedies.
Not every remedy works for each person, but whether you need to lose a few pounds, change your diet, limit alcohol, or take antacids, there’s likely something on this list that will offer you relief.
When is a Doctor’s Visit Necessary?
Of course, if you have heartburn multiple times a week or you’re popping antacids all the time, you need to see your physician. It’s possible you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or perhaps a peptic ulcer that is causing the pain you feel.
Frequent heartburn is a problem, so if it doesn’t go away with these remedies, be sure to discuss it with your doctor to prevent future complications.