7 Natural Remedies for Heartburn

Heartburn is on the rise. As many as 60 million Americans regularly suffer from acid reflux. It's a staggering amount of people, and what's even more surprising is that experts are still debating what causes it, and how best to treat it. 

Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophagel reflux, is the expulsion of contents from the stomach, back into the esophogus. The acidity of your stomach acid burns the lining of your esophogus, causing a burning sensation in your chest. 

The problems with heartburn medications... 

While there are over-the-counter and prescription medications to treat acid reflux, they can be expensive and come with many side effects. Some of these include nutrient deficiencies, osteoporosis and dependancy. 

As so many of us know, acid reflux can be very uncomfortable, and in some cases unbearable. So naturally, people turn to over-the-counter and prescription relief without giving it much thought. The two most common types of medication are H2 blockers and proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), which are both very effective at suppressing stomach acid. Short-term side effects include constipation, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Not great, but not worrisome. 

However, the long-term effects can have much more serious consequences. Stomach acid is incredibly important in the role of breaking down food, as it helps aid good digestion and absorption, so suppressing the stomach acid may lead to nutrient deficiencies. PPIs can also increase levels of gastrin, a hormone which can leach calcium from bones. The combination of these two side effects means there is an increased risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis. As well as this, stomach acid plays an important part in fighting off illness, so you can be left at risk of infections.

Along with these short and long-term effects of using prescribed or over-the-counter medications, you can also develop a dependency on them. They can cause rebound acid hypersecretion, which happens when your body produces more stomach acid to make up for the suppression of it. This then means that if you come off the medication, you'll suffer from severe heartburn, which then causes the sufferer to continue taking it, causing a dependency. 

Some things to change... 

If you've suffered from heartburn for a little while, you may be familiar with these recommendations. They're important to try though, as it's better to treat the cause rather than the symptoms. Such as maintaining a healthy weight, lifestyle and not smoking. 

Changing your meal timing and post-meal behavior will help, too. Allowing your body to digest food properly is the best way to avoid heartburn. The NIH recommends not eating within the three hours before bedtime, as you can't properly digest anything lying down. It's also important not to constrict your stomach, so avoid tight clothing or bad posture, and try not to overeat. 

7 Natural Remedies for Heartburn:

If you are suffering from heartburn, and nothing seems to help, here are 7 natural remedies to try:

1. Aloe Vera

Whilst it's typically thought of as an after-sun treatment, you can use the same anti-inflammatory properties to soothe your irritated esophagus and alleviate the symptoms of acid reflux. A study found that taking aloe vera daily reduced the frequency of heartburn in those diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease. 

2. Chewing Gum

This one's super easy to try. Chewing gum stimulates the production of saliva and increases swallowing, and saliva has been shown to flush the stomach acid back down to the stomach. Try chewing gum for half an hour after you've eaten to keep your esophagus clear of acid. 

3. Melatonin

Melatonin, the ‘sleep hormone’, is naturally present in the digestive tract and offers some protection against acid reflux. A study showed melatonin decreased the occurrence of heartburn. It’s not definite why melatonin helps with heartburn, but it could be the antioxidant properties which fight inflammation in the esophagus.

4. Acupuncture

The reason why we suffer from heartburn is due to an opening between the esophagus and the stomach, allowing the backward flow of contents. Research is limited, but acupuncture has been shown to discourage the relaxation of this sphincter, holding the stomach closed and preventing the contents from going back up.

5. Digestive Enzymes

One of the causes of acid reflux can be the amount of time it takes the stomach to digest food, which means the longer you're processing the food, the longer stomach acid levels remain high. Supplementing digestive enzymes can support the digestion process and prevent your stomach acid from staying high for so long.

6. Licorice

Licorice root may be able to help the painful symptoms of acid reflux. Licorice has strong anti-inflammatory properties which can help soothe the irritated esophagus.

7. Pickle Juice 

If you’ve got any pickles in your fridge, the juice in that jar could potentially help fight your acid reflux.  It’s been shown to help with acid reflux symptoms as it can signal to the body to stop producing stomach acid. There isn’t much research, but many people swear by it.

And finally...

It’s important to know that there are natural remedies out there for heartburn, whether it’s a change in your diet or chewing gum after you eat, as the over-the-counter and prescribed remedies are not the easiest or healthiest route out. Make sure you talk to your doctor before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle, especially if you have any health problems or you’re on any medication.

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