Natural remedies from a long time sufferer
What do you call a sweet potato stuffed with pulled pork, topped with onion rings? Raging heartburn. I’m not proud of this menu choice… it was a weak moment that I paid for all night long.
I have chronic heartburn and deal with the symptoms on a
daily hourly basis. When I’m disciplined about my diet, portions, and preventive measures I can stave it off, but because I decided to forgo pharmaceuticals – which only mask the symptoms – I have to think about preventing the pain every time I eat. This is tough for someone who likes to hang around the kitchen and think about food all day! If you have ever experienced occasional heartburn, or like me, suffer from more frequent/serious symptoms, you how uncomfortable it is.
I have waded through tons of information on home remedies for heartburn, tried ’em all, and found only a handful are effective for me. DIY health treatments can sometimes be risky, but this is one area I have no problem experimenting with. (Burning pain, please go away!)
(Communicate with your health practitioner if you are experiencing occasional or frequent heartburn. This article should not be construed or used as medical advice, but rather a personal account of what I have found to work over several years of looking for natural remedies to treat my own heartburn.)
Causes of heartburn
From my 12 years of suffering, I have learned a few things about heartburn. It is most commonly the result of having stomach valves that are too weak to remain fully closed after food goes down. The relaxed valves allow stomach juices to be released back up into the esophagus where they don’t belong. The esophageal lining becomes irritated, causing a burning sensation. For many people, heartburn occurs when they eat fatty, fried, or acidic foods, overeat, or eat too close to bedtime. Of course, everyone’s body is unique, and each person will be affected differently by food and beverages.
Research suggests that allowing chronic heartburn to continue untreated can be detrimental to the esophagus. The tough lining of the stomach is designed to handle the acidity, but the delicate lining of the esophagus should not be exposed to these acids. For this reason, measures should be taken to avoid heartburn whenever possible.
Natural heartburn remedies that work
Note: A proper diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in fatty, fried, acidic, and processed foods is your best prevention and cure. Nonetheless, because we all falter from time to time use these natural home remedies to see what works best for you.
My favorite trick to avoid heartburn? Eat almonds. I learned this gem of a trick from the good old Reader’s Digest. I eat 3-4 almonds immediately after every single meal or snack to decrease heartburn symptoms. Any type of almond works well for me… raw, roasted, salted, or unsalted. This is not a fool-proof remedy so – as mentioned above – I still have to watch what types of food I eat. I keep almonds in my purse, car, kitchen, and anywhere else I think I might need them. (Find organic, non-GMO almonds here.)
2. Aloe vera juice
Aloe vera juice is also part of my heartburn treatment regimen. Before most meals, especially ones that include acidic foods (spaghetti sauce, salsa, etc.), I drink about 2 ounces of aloe vera juice. At first I found the taste to be unappealing and mixed it with a little fruit juice, but now I gulp the shots before I can taste anything. I found gallon jugs for sale at my local health food stores, and smaller bottles at Kroger (a local grocery mart).
Just as aloe vera has healing properties for burned skin, the juice can cool the burn caused by stomach acid. I have also read that aloe vera juice has been known to heal the esophageal lining and reduce preexisting damage that may have been caused by heartburn, reflux, GERD, etc. (Find aloe vera supplements here.)
3. Apple cider vinegar (ACV)
This is a face-contorting remedy… but it works. Mix 1-2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar with 8 oz. of water and drink before each meal. I prefer drinking the aloe juice over this method because my stomach is very sensitive to the ACV, and sometimes it leaves me with a stomachache for a while after drinking. Matt just shoots it straight – YUCK!
If heartburn has already set in, you can use ACV to get rid of the burn. Just quickly drink 1-2 tablespoons of ACV and you’ll notice almost instant relief. Warning: this method is extremely unpleasant.
Note: if you can’t handle the ACV substitute it with a shot of lime juice.
Dairy is actually known to be a food that relaxes the valve between the stomach and esophagus and some should avoid it altogether. For whatever reason though, dairy works for my heartburn. In extreme cases, when my usual remedies aren’t giving me any relief, I drink a glass of raw milk or eat a few tablespoons of ice cream. Careful… an ice cream habit can form quickly! (Find raw milk near you here)
UPDATE: Since the original writing of this article, my Naturopathic Doctor has recommended DGL for my heartburn. DGL is licorice root with the compound removed that raises blood pressure. It comes in chewable tablets and tastes decent, even for people like myself who are repulsed by licorice. DGL is natural and has NO side effects. I can’t even express how magical this little chewable tablet has been! It relieves heartburn almost immediately if I take it at the first signs of heartburn. What’s even better is that after taking DGL for only 2 months, it has healed my digestive tract so that heartburn will subside after a few minutes even if I don’t take a tablet! Hip hip hooray! (Find the DGL I use here.)
Matt’s heartburn remedies
Since we are all different, I asked for Matt’s opinion on the best natural heartburn remedies. He agrees that almonds are very effective in preventing heartburn when eating problematic foods. He often holds his hand out after a restaurant meal when I’m discreetly nibbling my almonds. A shot of apple cider vinegar is another one of his favorites, and he can drink it without getting a stomachache. He also finds relief with a shot of lime juice (not from concentrate). It sounds contradictory since it’s an acidic citrus juice, but it works for him. The last remedy he uses – and I’m envious this doesn’t work for me – is munching on a few apple slices after noticing the first signs of heartburn.
Other heartburn tips
If you are prone to heartburn, you should also keep in mind that it’s not just food that can contribute to the problem. Wearing tight clothing can put pressure on the area where those tricky valves sit between the stomach and esophagus. Overeating causes a full belly to put more pressure on the valves, making them work harder to keep stomach juices where they belong. Avoid bending over or exerting yourself for a while after meals. Try to eat meals several hours before lying down for naps or bedtime to give your body time to fully digest.
Cool the burn
Heartburn is a painful nuisance. Spending years looking for a natural home remedy that works for you can be a daunting bout of trial and error, but be patient and keep trying – avoiding pharmaceuticals that only mask the symptoms will pay off in the long run.
Did you see anything new in this article you are going to try? Do you have a natural heartburn remedy you swear by that might work for others? Share below!