Woman with heartburn symptoms needs help with heartburn relief

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Heartburn relief: Simple remedies to put out the fire

  • The terms heartburn and acid reflux are often used interchangeably, but heartburn is actually a symptom of acid reflux.
  • Pay attention to the foods that trigger heartburn for you and eliminate them from your diet.

Heartburn occurs when the muscular valve between your stomach and esophagus loosens or doesn’t completely close, allowing stomach acid to escape into your esophagus. You may be very familiar with the symptoms of heartburn; that burning sensation just below your breast bone, that can rise up into your chest. You may also have a bitter or sour taste in your mouth. The terms heartburn and acid reflux are often used interchangeably, but heartburn is actually a symptom of acid reflux.

If you experience occasional heartburn, there are simple things you can do to identify the cause, and ways to prevent the burn.

Causes of heartburn

Heartburn is common and can be caused or made worse by lifestyle choices and physical issues, including:

  • certain foods and drinks
  • being overweight
  • overeating
  • smoking
  • stress and anxiety
  • pregnancy
  • certain medicines
  • a hiatal hernia

Strategies for heartburn relief

There are a number of home remedies and lifestyle changes that will help you prevent or even eliminate heartburn. Here are my heartburn remedies.

Avoid foods that cause heartburn

While foods that trigger heartburn can vary person to person, there are a number of foods that are known causes of heartburn, including:

  • spicy foods: hot chili peppers
  • acidic foods: coffee, citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate
  • peppermint
  • fatty foods
  • caffeine
  • carbonated beverages
  • wine and other alcoholic beverages

Pay attention to the foods that trigger heartburn for you and eliminate them from your diet.

Increase probiotics

An imbalance of beneficial bacteria in your gut may be contributing to your heartburn symptoms. It’s common to think acid reflux is caused by an excess of stomach acid, when in fact it may be that not enough acid is in your stomach to digest food. Learn how to improve your gut health by including gut-friendly prebiotics and probiotic food to your diet, which can help ensure you have enough stomach acid for proper digestion.

Don’t smoke

The nicotine from smoking and vaping can irritate your esophagus and may weaken the valve between the esophagus and stomach allowing stomach acid to back up into the esophagus.

Maintain a healthy weight

Excess weight may put too much pressure on your stomach, which in turn may loosen the valve and allow stomach acid to escape.

Practice portion control

When you overeat, your stomach has to stretch, which can weaken the valve leading to the esophagus. Try eating smaller, more frequent meals to avoid stretching your stomach.

Avoid late-night eating

Laying down or going to bed on a full stomach can cause heartburn. Wait at least three hours after eating before you go to bed to give your stomach a chance to empty itself. You can also try raising one end of your bed so your chest and head are above your waist. This helps to prevent stomach acid from travelling up toward your throat.

Bottle of antacids

Treatments for heartburn

There are a number of treatments to help relieve heartburn including natural remedies that you can try at home and over-the-counter medications that can offer instant heartburn relief.

Natural remedy: Use baking soda

You may find relief from infrequent heartburn with sodium bicarbonate, otherwise known as baking soda. Simply mix ½ teaspoon with four ounces of water to help neutralize the acid. Note this contains sodium and should not be used if you are on a sodium-restricted diet. Check with your doctor if you are taking any prescriptions drugs, are pregnant or have a chronic health condition before using baking soda to relieve heartburn.

Over-the-counter medications

  • Calcium-based antacids are ideal heartburn relief for infrequent sufferers.
  • H2 blockers (histamine H2-receptor antagonist) and proton-pump inhibitors reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach and help to prevent heartburn for those who suffer from heartburn on a more frequent basis.

These drugs should not be taken indefinitely without checking with your doctor. If you have frequent heartburn for more than six weeks, of if these treatments don’t help relieve your heartburn you should see your general practice doctor.

When to seek care for heartburn

Don’t ignore heartburn. Stomach acid can damage your esophagus and increase your risk of cancer. Sometimes natural remedies and over-the-counter medications are not enough to reduce your symptoms of heartburn, and prescription medications may be necessary.

  • Schedule a virtual visit with a general practice doctor if lifestyle changes and medicines are not helping, if you have heartburn three to four times per week, or if you have other symptoms such as food getting stuck in your throat, vomiting or unintentional weight loss.

If you have more severe symptoms, such as chest pain, dark-colored (coffee grounds) vomit, black stools, persistent vomiting, or feel like you are choking, seek care in the Emergency Room right away.  

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