Unlike its name suggests, heartburn actually has nothing to do with the heart. Heartburn is a burning sensation in the form of indigestion caused when acid from the stomach splashes up into the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach).
Medical Warning: Chest pain is a common symptom of a heart attack. If you are experiencing this symptom for the first time, it is always best to consult with a health-care practitioner.
Having heartburn now and then isn’t dangerous. However, chronic heartburn (known as GERD or gastro esophageal reflux disease) can lead to serious problems and should be addressed.
Heartburn is very common. About 20% of Canadian adults experience heartburn at least once a week.
1. Watch your eating habits.
Avoid foods that trigger your heartburn. Keep a diary of foods that you eat prior to getting heartburn. Try eliminating foods that seem to appear more often. Bringing this list to your doctor can be very helpful as well if you end up needing medical consultation.
Avoid eating two to three hours before bedtime. While it is tempting, no late night snacks! This is not helpful, and will often make you feel generally uncomfortable the following day anyhow.
Try to eat slowly and take smaller bites.
Losing weight can also help. Excess stomach fat pushes against the stomach forcing acids into the esophagus. Hey, lots of benefits to losing weight it turns out! Follow a diet and exercise program to lose weight in a healthy way.
2. Drink water.
Making sure you drink enough water in a day can go a long way to preventing heartburn. An average adult should drink about two liters of water a day. That’s just water. Not soda, juice, coffee, etc.
Your urine can help you measure your water intake. It should be pale yellow. If it is darker, then you need to drink more.
3. Don’t lie down.
Though it is tempting to lie down (especially after a big meal, we have all been there!) this tends to worsen heartburn. Sit or stand up so that gravity can help keep acid in the stomach. Especially when it’s full of food after a big meal.
4. Chew gum.
A study in the Journal of Dental Research concluded that some people experience heartburn relief when they chewed sugar-free gum for thirty minutes after a meal. Chewing gum stimulates the salivary glands in your mouth increasing the flow of saliva. This helps to clear away any acid in your gut.
This may be why certain foods/activities that reduce saliva production like caffeine, alcohol, smoking, or not drinking enough water can cause or worsen heartburn.
5. Take a spoonful of baking soda.
Drink a teaspoonful of baking soda dissolved into a glass of warm (room temperature) water. The baking soda will neutralize the acid in your esophagus easing the burning sensation. When baking soda and stomach acid meet, carbon dioxide gas is formed. So expect to burp. This means it’s working. And hey, a REAL excuse to let out a hearty belch! Take that, mom.
6. Drink aloe vera juice.
Aloe Vera juice is a fizzy drink made from the leaves of the Aloe Vera plant. Taking a glassful following a meal can help to balance stomach acid and prevent heartburn. This is more useful as a preventative measure than for achieving instant heartburn relief.
Juice made from the inner fillet is recommended over the whole leaf variety (it will specify on the bottle).
Aloe Vera juice is also a source of healthy antioxidants, which have other helpful benefits for you and your body as well! It’s a win-win.
7. Make a cup of tea.
A cup of Ginger root or Licorice root tea can help with indigestion and acid reflux. Make sure teas are made with real ginger root or real licorice root and are not just flavoured.
Drinking a cup right after a meal can bring relief.
8. Eat almonds.
Whole almonds are rich in calcium, which is an acid neutralizing mineral. Snacking on a handful (half a dozen) after a meal can help to balance excess stomach acid.
Do not eat almonds if your stomach is already full as this can worsen heartburn. What did we say about over-snacking!
9. Consume more healthy acid.
It might seem strange that the very thing which is causing your discomfort may be able to help it. But in many cases, acid reflux can actually be caused by not having enough acid in your stomach. It is acid that tells the LES (lower esophageal sphincter) to close. If you do not have enough, your LES may think it’s okay to loosen up a bit and allow some acid to escape. Try drinking some apple cider vinegar (the pure, raw, unfiltered variety has the most benefits) or other type of vinegar.
Important: make sure you dilute the vinegar. Put about 3 teaspoons in a glass of warm water. Vinegar is strong enough to burn your throat so it is better to start with a lower dose and work your way up.
For the best results, try this before each meal. Though you may find once a day is all you need.
10. Avoid tight clothing.
Tight fitting clothing that push on your abdomen can apply pressure to your stomach. Tight jeans (especially with a belt on) will push into your abdomen when you sit down. This pushes on your stomach forcing acid up toward the LES and into the esophagus.
Think of it like applying pressure to a balloon that you are pinching closed. If you squeeze the balloon hard enough, air will escape no matter how hard you pinch.
11. Take it easy.
Stress and anxiety have been shown to increase stomach acidity. Take time out of your day to clear your mind and relax. Try stretching exercises or light Yoga. Or consider taking a course in meditation. There are many benefits to a healthy outlook.
12. Go for a walk.
Walking after a meal can help with digestion. Take a quick stroll around the block following a meal and see if it helps. Fido will be happy.
Follow these tips and you just might feel better! Don’t stress, while heartburn is certainly a nuisance, it is possible to get rid of it naturally following some of these suggestions. Of course, you should consult a doctor if the problems get worse. Feel better soon!