The searing pain of heartburn can be brought on by eating spicy, fatty or acidic foods, or just by eating too much too quickly. Luckily, it is easy to combat—or to avoid altogether.
When stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, you feel the burning pain of acid reflux. At the first sign of heartburn, try one of these natural solutions.
• Baking soda can neutralize excess stomach acid (don’t use it if you have high blood pressure). Stir 1 teaspoon (5 ml) in a glass of warm water and drink.
• Try a tonic: Steep 1 tablespoon (15 g) each dried gentian root and dandelion root in 1 cup (250 ml) of boiling water.
• Drink ginger tea: Boil 1 1/2 teaspoons (7 ml) fresh ginger or 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) powdered ginger in 1 cup (250 ml) water for 10 minutes before drinking.
• Chew a licorice tablet before meals. This encourages mucin production in the esophagus, providing a protective barrier against stomach acids.
• Seasoning food with fennel seeds or peppermint makes it more digestible and soothes heartburn.
• Eat a piece of dry white bread or toast to neutralize stomach acids, or 1 tablespoon (15 ml) dry oatmeal.
• Sleep with your upper body slightly elevated at night to prevent acid from entering the esophagus.
• Eat sensibly, avoiding foods, drinks and combinations you know give you heartburn—perhaps fatty or acidic foods, chocolate or wine.
• Avoid alcohol, nicotine and caffeine; they increase gastric acid secretion, which can cause heartburn.
• Eat slowly and always opt for smaller, more frequent portions.
• Watch your weight. If you are carrying excess pounds (kilos), this increases pressure inside your stomach, which can lead to acid reflux and heartburn.
• Eat early in the evening to give your stomach time to digest the meal—this takes about 3 hours. If you go to bed shortly after eating, stomach acid can flow back into your esophagus.
If you are a frequent victim of heartburn, seek professional advice.