You recognize that feeling, a slight burp followed by a chestful of fire. Heartburn. It can be so uncomfortable that many people have even confused it for a heart attack. Also known as acid reflux, indigestion, or pyrosis, heartburn is a common ailment.
Up to 20 percent of people experience occasional heartburn. It often comes with burping, bloating, a sour taste in the mouth, and discomfort in the chest area. Persistent heartburn that occurs more than twice a week is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Fortunately, heartburn has simple and effective solutions. We have compiled several home remedies for you to try.
What Causes Heartburn?
When acid moves from your stomach into your esophagus, it causes the discomfort you know as heartburn. Normally, the esophageal sphincter acts as a gate that allows food to pass down into the stomach and stops acid from going upwards. But if the esophageal sphincter doesn't close, acid can pass through.
The sensation can last from a few minutes to a couple of hours. Some people experience the pain in waves, while others feel it as persistent burning.
Most people experience heartburn after eating; the discomfort should go away once the food is completely digested. Sometimes, symptoms can disappear for a while and occur again when you lie down. Tight clothing can make your pain worse so remove your belt and loosen tight clothing to ease discomfort.
Natural Remedies for Heartburn
Whether you experience heartburn frequently or occasionally, you can take action. Before you reach for the over-the-counter antacids or prescription drugs, try these natural remedies for heartburn relief and prevention.
1. Eat Slow & Don't Overeat
Two common causes of heartburn are eating large meals and eating too fast. If your eyes were bigger than your stomach when you loaded your plate, you don't have to finish everything. Also, chew your food thoroughly before swallowing. This allows the enzymes in your saliva more time to mix with the food and begin digesting it properly.
What to do: Try to eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day rather than three large meals. This can help reduce your chances of experiencing heartburn.
2. Chew Gum
Chewing gum is one of the simplest and most effective natural remedies for heartburn. Gum increases saliva production, which acts as a buffer against stomach acid. Avoid peppermint gum because it can relax the esophageal sphincter, worsening the situation
What to do: Chew gum after meals, particularly if you overate or consumed heartburn-inducing foods (see below). Make sure to choose natural varieties and brands of gum. Avoid gum with artificial sweeteners.
3. Try Therapeutic Herbs
Some herbal remedies can help relieve heartburn symptoms, or prevent them in the first place. Below are a few of the best.
You can make fennel tea, work it into recipes, or take it as a supplement. It works by improving your digestion and preventing heartburn before it begins.
How to use: You can drink fennel tea made from the root, or you can purchase tea bags. Drink before or after a meal. You can also chew fennel seeds on their own after meals.
How to use: Sprinkle fenugreek seeds over your food or take as a dietary supplement 30 minutes before meals.
How to use: Buy fresh licorice root and make tea, or buy premade tea bags. You can also buy it as a nutritional supplement.
4. Drink Ginger Tea
Ginger root is an ancient remedy for digestive ailments, including heartburn. It’s also great for motion sickness and nausea. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that can soothe an irritated esophagus.
How to use: To prepare ginger tea, slice three or four quarter-sized pieces of ginger root and steep them in 2 cups of hot water for approximately 30 minutes. Drink 20 minutes before each meal.
5. Add Apple Cider Vinegar to Your Water
It may seem counterintuitive to ingest something acidic when you're trying to avoid or relieve heartburn, but many people say apple cider vinegar is helpful.
How to use: Drink one tablespoon of raw organic apple cider vinegar mixed in with approximately 4 ounces of purified water before each meal. You can also add a squeeze of lemon juice.
6. Take Aloe Vera
Many people think of aloe vera for sunburn relief. But aloe can do so much more, including easing the discomfort of heartburn. Aloe is tolerated well, reduces symptoms, and generally has no side effects.
How to use: Before meals, drink ½ cup of aloe vera juice either cold or at room temperature. Look for a brand that has the harsh laxative component (aloin) removed, and uses only the inner leaf.
7. Elevate Your Head & Upper Body
Have you ever noticed that heartburn gets worse when you're lying down but feels better when you stand up straight? That's because lying down with a full stomach causes the contents to press harder against your lower esophageal sphincter. This makes it easier for stomach acid to rise.
What to do: Try not to lie down for 3 to 4 hours after eating if you get heartburn. When you do sleep, elevate your head 4 to 6 inches higher than usual. You can also try placing books or blocks under the head of your bed or lifting the head of your mattress with a wedge-shaped pillow.
8. Reduce Your Stress
Research shows that individuals with more stress tend to experience more heartburn. Adopt healthy coping mechanisms. Better yet, minimize your exposure to its sources as much as possible. This is important for your overall health and well-being, not just heartburn.
What to do: Take a daily walk in nature, meditate for 10 to 15 minutes, use lavender essential oil, or find a stress-reduction method that works for your lifestyle.
9. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Even moderate weight gain in a person can cause or worsen heartburn symptoms. The pressure on your stomach can be strong enough to push more acid up into your esophagus. Losing a few extra pounds can reduce the frequency and bring much-desired relief!
What to do: Our best suggestion for maintaining a normal weight is to eat a plant-based diet. You will naturally shed pounds and become healthier as you cut out animal products, which will reduce your heartburn.
10. Stop Smoking
Smoking cigarettes can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter. It also damages the mucosal lining of the esophagus, leaving the tissue more vulnerable to acid.
What to do: Quit smoking! For best success, make a plan and stick to it. We’ve put together easy steps to end the smoking habit for good. There are also a number of lung cleansing herbs — like oregano and lungwort — you can try. You can even make a castor oil pack for additional lung cleansing.
11. Try Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes help break down fats and proteins. If your body does not make enough — which can cause heartburn — you may need to take them supplementally. They help fats move out of the stomach and into the small intestine much faster, reducing the transit time.
What to do: Take digestive enzymes with all meals, especially meals that contain a lot of fat or that may be difficult to digest. Try VeganZyme®, a full-spectrum plant-based digestive enzyme formula that supports healthy digestion.
If you are prone to heartburn, it is important to avoid known food and beverage triggers. Try keeping a food log to track the foods that bring on heartburn. That way, you know if you need to make any dietary modifications, as they can vary from person to person. The main trigger foods are:
Alcohol relaxes your lower esophageal sphincter, which gives stomach acid a chance to creep up and cause that dreaded burning sensation.
Beer and red wine are known to cause heartburn. If you do choose to imbibe, don't drink to excess and eat smaller meals along with your alcoholic beverage.
Coffee & Caffeine
While it may seem tough to give up coffee, you can find natural coffee alternatives that can satisfy your morning craving without causing heartburn.
Drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages can trigger heartburn. Coffee is acidic, and caffeine relaxes your lower esophageal sphincter, which can lead to that unwanted burning sensation. You don't have to cut out coffee or your preferred caffeine source entirely. You can also try low-acid coffee. Moderation is key.
Most carbonated beverages are highly acidic. The carbon dioxide in these beverages can force your lower esophageal sphincter open when it shouldn't. Opt for flavored water rather than reaching for soda.
Chocolate is high in caffeine and fat — two known heartburn triggers. While it releases pleasurable hormones after you consume it, the fun often stops there. Those prone to heartburn should avoid it.
Citrus Fruits & Juices
Oranges, lemons, and other citrus fruits are highly acidic, which can lead to acid reflux. Opt for high alkaline fruits instead, such as berries, bananas, apples, and melon. If you are craving citrus fruit or juice, try to consume it earlier in the day to reduce your risk of heartburn.
Fried, Greasy Foods
High-fat, fried, and greasy foods take longer to digest, which increases the chances of heartburn occurring. The heavy, oil-laden meals sit in your gut longer, putting pressuring your stomach and lower esophageal sphincter. Bake or roast your food rather than frying, whenever possible.
Dairy products, particularly full-fat ones, such as cheeses, heavy cream, and butter are heartburn triggers. High-fat foods relax your stomach, delay digestion, and put pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter, causing stomach acid to rise.
Many people complain about heartburn after eating spicy meals. Onion is one common ingredient in many of these meals. Individuals who eat food with onions — whether the meal was spicy or not — have a significant increase in the likelihood of getting heartburn.
Spicy foods are among the most-known causes of heartburn. Try reducing the spice and flavorings in your meals, particularly onion, pepper, and garlic.
Tomatoes and tomato sauce contain citric and malic acid, both of which are heartburn triggers. Steer clear of foods made with tomatoes — even ketchup and salsa — if you are prone to heartburn.
Peppermint tea relaxes digestive muscles. That is exactly what makes peppermint a trigger for heartburn — those relaxed muscles may allow the stomach contents to back up into the esophagus, causing you to feel the burn. Peppermint works great to ease other digestive concerns like constipation or nausea, but avoid it if you are prone to acid reflux.
Points to Remember
Experiencing heartburn is uncomfortable, and it can even impact your sleep and your overall well-being. Using simple, natural, and effective natural remedies can make all the difference!
Natural remedies for acid reflux or heartburn include chewing natural gum (but avoid peppermint), drinking ginger tea, elevating your head at night, not sleeping within three hours of eating, and taking nutritional supplements such as those containing fennel, fenugreek, or licorice root. Take a full-spectrum digestive enzyme supplement like Global Healing Center’s VeganZyme with all meals to support healthy digestion.
You will also want to avoid trigger foods. They vary from person to person but include onions, tomatoes, caffeine and coffee, fatty foods, chocolate, dairy, spicy foods, and carbonated drinks. Longer-term lifestyle habits that will lessen heartburn include losing weight and quitting smoking.
What natural remedy have you tried for heartburn? Tell your experiences below!
- Heartburn and GERD Overview. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. InformedHealth.org. Updated 13 Dec 2018. Accessed 9 Sep 2019.
- Moazzez R, et al. The effect of chewing sugar-free gum on gastro-esophageal reflux. J Dent Res. 2005 Nov;84(11):1062-1065.
- Hills JM, Aaronson PI. The mechanism of action of peppermint oil on gastrointestinal smooth muscle. An analysis using patch clamp electrophysiology and isolated tissue pharmacology in rabbit and guinea pig. Gastroenterology. 1991;101:55-65.
- Badgujar SB, et al. Foeniculum vulgare Mill: a review of its botany, phytochemistry, pharmacology, contemporary application, and toxicology. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:842674.
- DiSilvestro RA, et al. Anti-heartburn effects of a fenugreek fiber product. Phytother Res. 2011 Jan;25(1):88-91.
- Yeh AM, Golianu B. Integrative treatment of reflux and functional dyspepsia in Children. Children (Basel). 2014 Sep;1(2):119-133.
- Mashhadi NS, et al. Anti-oxidative and anti-Inflammatory effects of ginger in health and physical activity: review of current evidence. Int J Prev Med. 2013 Apr;4(Suppl 1):S36-S42.
- Panahi Y, et al. Efficacy and safety of Aloe vera syrup for the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease: a pilot randomized positive-controlled trial. J Tradit Chin Med. 2015 Dec;35(6):632-636.
- Sidhu AS, Triadafilopoulos G. Neuro-regulation of lower esophageal sphincter function as treatment for gastroesophageal reflux disease. World J Gastroenterol. 2008 Feb 21;14(7):985-990.
- Naliboff BD, et al. The effect of life stress on symptoms of heartburn. Psychosom Med. 2004 May-Jun;66(3):426-434.
- Ness-Jensen E, et al. Weight loss and reduction in gastroesophageal reflux. A prospective population-based cohort study: the HUNT study. Am. J. Gastroenterol. 2013;108:376-382.
- Kahrilas PJ, Gupta RR. Mechanisms of acid reflux associated with cigarette smoking. Gut. 1990 Jan;31(1):4-10.
- Chen S, et al. Is alcohol consumption associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease? J Zhejiang Univ Sci B. 2010 Jun;11(6):423-428.
- Brazer SR, et al. Effect of different coffees on esophageal acid contact time and symptoms in coffee-sensitive subject. Physiol Behav. 1995 Mar;57(3):563-567.
- Johnson T, et al. Systematic review: the effects of carbonated beverages on gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2010 Mar;31(6):607-614.
- Murphy DW, Castell DO. Chocolate and heartburn: evidence of increased esophageal acid exposure after chocolate ingestion. Am J Gastroenterol. 1988 Jun;83(6):633-636.
- Kubo, et al. Dietary guideline adherence for gastroesophageal reflux disease. BMC Gastroenterol. 2014;14:144.
- Allen ML, et al. The effect of raw onions on acid reflux and reflux symptoms. Am J Gastroenterol. 1990 Apr;85(4):377-380.
- Choe JW, et al. Foods inducing typical Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease symptoms in Korea. J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2017 Jul;23(3):363-369.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.