Heartburn can be a frustrating blight on any person’s day. The annoyance is caused by a regurgitation of stomach acid into the food pipe (acid reflux), which results in pain and irritation of its sensitive lining. Heartburn can be caused by a wide variety of factors from pregnancy and obesity, to stress and certain foods. The triggers can be different from person to person so it’s worth taking the time to monitor what you eat or your stress levels to help identify and treat the root cause. In the meantime, there are some short term and longer term natural remedies you could adopt to manage the painful symptoms of heartburn.
Short Term Remedies
These are a few simple things some people have found helpful in the short-term, when suffering from heartburn:
- Chamomile: although more research is needed, chamomile tea may have a soothing effect on the digestive tract. However, this should be avoided if you have a ragweed allergy.
- Liquorice: several studies have shown this to be effective and it may increase the mucus coating of the oesophagus, which makes it more resistant to the irritation caused by regurgitated stomach acid. Deglycyrrhizinated liquorice is available as a supplement; this has had the majority of the glycyrrhizin removed, as this compound can have harmful effects if too much is ingested.
- Ginger: the root of the ginger plant has been used for centuries as a digestive aid. Try it either by adding to food or by brewing ginger tea.
- Loosen clothing: loosening tight clothing like belts can reduce the pressure on your stomach, which may have been encouraging acid to move up into your oesophagus.
- Standing up straight: this reduces the pressure on the lower oesophageal sphincter, the muscle that should prevent acid reflux. It also allows gravity to act and pull the acid back down.
A great treatment for heartburn is prevention, rather than attempting to tackle symptoms when they occur. These are changes you can make to your lifestyle that can help you to avoid heartburn in future:
- Maintain a healthy weight: extra weight can put pressure on the stomach, pushing acid up into the oesophagus. It is vital that you lose any weight sensibly though, using regular exercise and a balanced diet.
- Reduce (or stop) smoking and alcohol consumption: these have a detrimental effect on the ability of the stomach valve to function properly, allowing acid to escape the stomach more easily.
- Elevate the head of your bed by 10-20cm: keeping your chest higher than your stomach while you are sleeping will allow gravity to prevent stomach acid travelling into your oesophagus.
- Avoid fatty, spicy or rich foods as these frequently trigger acid reflux.
- Avoid eating for 3-4 hours before going to bed, so that food has time to digest before you lie down.
- Avoid large meals: try eating smaller meals, which will make digestion easier for your stomach. Some medications can contribute to heartburn, however you should not come off any medication without discussing it with your doctor first.
How effective these methods are can differ from person to person, so it’s worth exploring what works best for you. However, if you feel that you’re dealing with a more serious case of heartburn and acid reflux and little seems to work, you should consult your doctor or pharmacist.