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.
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 — gastro esophageal 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.
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.
A few simple strategies can help soothe the burn of heartburn:
- Watch what you eat. Avoid specific foods that trigger your heartburn, but also watch out for peppermint, caffeine, sodas, chocolate, citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, onions, and high-fat foods. Eat more fiber to keep your digestive tract moving and healthy. Also reduce your portion sizes. Try eating five or six small meals a day, rather than three big ones. Eating too much at once is a big heartburn trigger.
- Watch when you eat. Push away the plate at least two or three hours before bedtime so your stomach has a chance to empty before you lie down.
- Watch how you eat. Eat slowly, taking smaller bites.
- Lose weight. Excess abdominal fat can press against the stomach, forcing acids up into the esophagus. Follow a diet and exercise program to shed extra pounds.
- Keep a diary. Write down what you’ve eaten and when your heartburn symptoms occur so you can pinpoint which foods are your triggers and avoid them.
- Toss the cigarettes. Smoking can reduce the effectiveness of the muscle that keeps acids in the stomach. For this, and so many other health reasons, it’s always the perfect time to quit.
- Loosen your belt. Ditch the skin-tight jeans. Tight clothes put added pressure on the abdomen.
- Tilt up. Put wood blocks under your bed to raise the head about 6 inches. Don’t bother raising your pillows, though — it’s not effective for heartburn.
- Work it out. Exercise may protect against the acid reflux that leads to heartburn.
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