What Is Heartburn?
Heartburn feels exactly like it sounds — a burning, fiery sensation in your chest and throat. It is caused by the backflow or reflux of acidic stomach contents into your food pipe.
Stomach acids are meant to break down food for digestion. But some foods and drinks can cause these acids to travel up into the esophagus or food pipe. Unlike the stomach, the esophagus does not have an internal lining to protect you from the effects of the acid. The acid reflux from the stomach is responsible for that uncomfortable burning sensation in the chest.
Occasional heartburn is very common, especially after eating a big or greasy meal. The next time you feel like your chest is on fire, these simple steps can help soothe the heartburn.
What Foods Cause Heartburn?
Spicy, acidic foods and carbonated beverages are the usual suspects for heartburn. While the triggers can vary from person to person, the following foods are known to bring on or worsen heartburn:
- Spicy foods with exotic spices or hot chili peppers
- Fried or greasy foods
- Citrus fruits like lemon, orange, and grapefruit
- Aerated drinks
- Fatty meats like ham or bacon
- Tomatoes and tomato sauce/ketchup
Quick Home Remedies
If you get heartburn regularly or have a chronic condition like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), home remedies can only provide temporary relief. The following tips are meant to ease the symptoms of heartburn and cannot cure a long-term illness. Please get in touch with your healthcare provider if you experience any of these symptoms together with the heartburn:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Pain that travels to the neck, shoulder, or jaw
No matter what causes heartburn, here are some simple steps that will give you quick relief.
1. Wear Loose Clothing
The first thing you should do when you get heartburn is to loosen your belt or change into relaxed clothing. Tight clothing compresses the stomach, which can cause or worsen heartburn. Acid reflux may be triggered by the pressure on your abdomen.
2. Sit or Stand up Straight
Your posture could also be making heartburn symptoms worse. If you are lying down, sit straight or stand up. The inclined position makes it easier for stomach acids to flow into your esophagus. Standing upright will reduce pressure on the stomach valves which prevent the backflow of acids into the food pipe.
3. Try Baking Soda
Baking soda can help relieve heartburn symptoms by neutralizing stomach acids. Add a teaspoon of baking soda to a glass of water and drink it slowly. Take small sips over a few minutes for the best results. Do not use baking powder as it is not very effective against heartburn.
4. Take Ginger
For centuries, ginger has been used as a folk remedy for heartburn and nausea. It has a number of medicinal properties and is naturally anti-inflammatory. To make ginger tea, simply add grated or diced ginger root to a cup of hot water. You can also use dried ginger root or ginger tea bags to ease heartburn.
5. Eat a Banana
Bananas have high levels of natural antacids that can counteract the effects of heartburn. Eating a banana every day will also help you avoid heartburn in the long term. If you don’t have a banana, an apple will do.
6. Chew Sugar-Free Gum
Chewing on gum stimulates the production of saliva which is a great way to soothe heartburn. Saliva dilutes the stomach acids and helps them clear out of your esophagus. It also promotes swallowing which can counteract acid reflux. A recent study showed that chewing gum for about half an hour after meals can help prevent heartburn completely.
7. Use Licorice Supplements
Licorice root is another folk remedy that is proven to be effective against heartburn. It increases mucous production in the internal lining of your esophagus, which protects you from the burning sensation of acid reflux. You can take licorice in the form of tea, powder, or supplements.
8. Take Aloe Juice
Just like aloe vera helps soothe sunburns on the skin, aloe juice can help ease the symptoms of heartburn. Packaged aloe juice can be found in most grocery stores. Simply drink half a cup of aloe juice or mix it with water to relieve the burning in your chest or throat.
9. Try Apple Cider Vinegar
Although research on the effectiveness of apple cider vinegar is lacking, many people swear by it to cure heartburn. Simply mix three teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in a cup of water and drink it after your meal.
10. Take Over-the-Counter Medication
Over-the-counter (OTC) heartburn medications like antacids, H2 blockers, and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are the gold standard for heartburn relief. Antacids neutralize stomach acids, while H2 blockers and PPIs decrease how much acid your stomach produces.
If you are prone to frequent heartburn, some easy lifestyle changes can help eliminate the condition.
- Avoid eating or drinking foods and beverages that are known to cause heartburn.
- Instead of having heavy meals, eat several small portions throughout the day.
- Quit smoking. Nicotine puts additional pressure on stomach valves.
- Stay up for at least 2 to 3 hours after eating but don't engage in vigorous physical exercise
- Lose weight if it is advised.
- Check your medications to see if heartburn is a known side-effect. You might need to change your medications if the issue persists.