If you are experiencing heartburn, you are not alone. Approximately 60 million adults in the U.S. suffer from heartburn every month. Every one of those sufferers is seeking tips on how to treat heartburn fast. RefluxMD recommends a comprehensive approach to heartburn, but when relief is needed NOW, here are some ideas you should consider.
Acid reflux results from a damaged or weak lower esophageal sphincter that fails to prevent the contents of the stomach from moving up into the esophagus. Since these stomach juices are typically very acidic, the result will be a burning sensation centered in your chest. Other symptoms that may also be present with heartburn include coughing (which can become chronic), burning further up in the throat and neck, and hoarseness of the voice.
Now the important question: what can you do for heartburn quickly at home? Two key elements of a long-term comprehensive approach to symptom relief may provide faster relief: (1) experimenting with several home remedies, and; (2) the use of less powerful over-the-counter medications. Let’s start with several home remedies known to stop heartburn.
Home remedies to treat heartburn
It is important to note that since every individual is different, everyone reacts to these home remedies differently. What works for one may not work for others. That is why we encourage “experimentation”.
Chewing gum to treat heartburn
Many adults find relief from heartburn with the help of non-mint chewing gum. Chewing gum improves saliva production, which has neutral pH and will dilute the acid in the stomach. More importantly, this saliva will also naturally coat the lining of the esophagus and add some short-term protection from small regurgitations of stomach contents.
Licorice for the treatment of heartburn
When people refer to taking licorice for heartburn relief, they’re usually talking about an herbal supplement and not the candy. In fact, most of the licorice candies you find in the grocery store aisle don’t contain any licorice extract, as discussed in an article by Dr. Para Chandrasoma MD. DGL Licorice (de-glycyrrhizinate licorice) was developed for the treatment of gastrointestinal problems, and chewable DGL Licorice tablets can be purchased locally. We recommend that anyone starting on DGL discuss this therapy with their doctor since excessive use can have some adverse side effects (see Dr. Chandrasoma’s article).
Baking soda to treat heartburn
Many adults find that a small amount of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) helps to cure heartburn naturally and quickly by neutralizing stomach acids. A mixture of one teaspoon of baking soda with an 8-ounce glass of water is an easy and cheap solution to heartburn.
Aloe vera juice for the treatment of heartburn
Aloe Vera juice helps to reduce inflammation in the esophagus. For some heartburn sufferers, it offers an effective treatment. To use aloe juice as a remedy for acid reflux, try drinking 2-3 ounces when you have symptoms or drink it about 20 minutes before meals to prevent symptoms. Aloe juice can also be used as a thickener in recipes. Like DGL licorice, Aloe Vera juice may have side effects and it can have interactions with certain drugs, so it is best to discuss this with your doctor before you start using this home remedy.
Slippery elm to treat GERD symptoms
Slippery Elm is a recommended herb to cure GERD symptoms. It thickens the mucus lining in the stomach, creating a barrier to protect the surface from acid. The suggested use is blending one tablespoon of Slippery Elm powder with water. You may use Slippery Elm up to three times per day. Like other natural home treatments, we recommend discussing this with your doctor as well.
Ginger tea for heartburn treatment at home
Ginger Tea has anti-inflammatory properties to prevent irritation in the stomach and promote the digestive process. You can add a few pieces of Ginger into a glass of water and boil it. It is suggested to strain this liquid after 20 minutes and add honey for taste. It is recommended to drink this liquid twice daily before your meals.
Fennel seeds to treat heartburn
Fennel seeds promote digestion and can reduce acid along with stomach bloating. As a result, fennel is believed to reduce the symptoms of acid reflux. You can eat fennel raw by cutting thin slices and mixing that with a green salad, or it can be cooked at high temperatures to make it crispy and crunchy, then added to various dishes.
Apple cider vinegar to reduce acid reflux symptoms
Apple Cider Vinegar is the best-known home remedy to treat acid reflux. Many visitors to RefluxMD’s website have noted its benefits, and our featured article, Apple cider vinegar for acid reflux, discusses many essential aspects of this home remedy. Using apple cider vinegar straight can be a challenge for some, so we put together a list of 11 ways you can add apple cider to your daily diet.
Honey to treat heartburn
Although there is not much scientific research supporting honey as a heartburn or GERD treatment, many believe that it can be an effective means of relief. It is believed that honey coats the lining of the esophagus and works as a healing agent for any damage from acid reflux. It’s also thought that the enzymes in honey help with digestion, and improved digestion will result in fewer GERD symptoms. We encourage you to read Heartburn home remedies: can honey help?
Over-the-counter medications to consider for heartburn
As advertised on our televisions almost every night, there is a variety of over-the-counter (OTC) medications and supplements promoted to reduce heartburn. As a rule of thumb, we recommend that you use the least powerful medication, at the lowest dosage that provides adequate symptom relief. Here are the medicines and supplements that are available at your local grocery store or pharmacy. For a more detailed discussion, we encourage you to read Dr. Chandrasoma’s article on GERD medications.
Antacids to treat heartburn and GERD symptoms
The primary ingredients in OTC antacids include aluminum hydroxide, calcium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate and magnesium hydroxide. These basic compounds provide relief by neutralizing the acid in the stomach. They are very fast acting; however, relief may be short-lived. They are considered very safe, have little or no side effects, and they can be used over a long period of time to treat the symptoms of acid reflux. There are many brands of antacids, and we encourage you to speak with your local pharmacist about the different types and their effectiveness.
H2 blockers for the treatment of heartburn
H2 blockers are very useful for many adults by reducing the production of stomach acid that leads to heartburn. They have proven to be more effective than antacids, but not as effective as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). However, they do not pose the same health risks as PPIs and are considered safe for long-term use. H2 blockers, with brand names such as Zantac, Tagamet, and Pepcid, take a bit longer to work than antacids, but they provide longer relief than antacids as well.
Proton pump inhibitors for heartburn relief
PPIs have proven to be very useful for shutting down the proton pumps that create hydrochloric acid for the digestion of food. Brands such as Prilosec, Prevacid, Zegerid, and Nexium are aggressively promoted on television and radio. When used for 14-days or on an intermittent basis, RefluxMD’s medical advisors believe they are safe and effective. However, when used on a daily basis long-term, there are many serious potential health risks that any user needs to consider.
Melatonin for relief from heartburn
Melatonin is not a medication, but rather a hormone that is best known for its use in managing sleep and sleep cycles. Several small medical research articles have found melatonin to be a promising treatment for acid reflux symptoms. For a more in-depth discussion, we encourage you to read our article, Natural remedy for reflux: Melatonin. Since there are some drug interactions with melatonin, we recommend that you discuss this treatment option with your physician.
Natural remedies and medications are not a cure for heartburn
Both natural remedies and medications can be used to treat heartburn and other GERD symptoms, but they are not a cure. Even though they offer symptom relief, regurgitation will continue. Since GERD is a progressive disease, it can still progress to Barrett’s esophagus (a pre-cancerous condition) and esophageal cancer. Therefore, we recommend a comprehensive approach to managing symptoms and reducing the risk of these long-term complications.
Other Elements of a Comprehensive Approach to Treat Heartburn
Maintain a healthy body mass index, or BMI
If you don’t know your BMI, use this BMI calculator offered by the NIH. A BMI of 19 to 24 is considered healthy for anyone with acid reflux disease. 25 to 29 is overweight, and 30 or greater is obese.
Why is this important? In our article, How excess weight is destroying your lower esophageal sphincter (and driving your GERD symptoms), we discuss how your weight pulls down and weakens the LES over time. The good news – for many adults, this is reversible. Medical research has proven that as the BMI returns to the healthy range, the LES can restore itself resulting in dramatically fewer symptoms or complete elimination of symptoms. If your BMI is over 27, we hope you will consider Scale Down for Relief, which has helped many to eliminate their heartburn and GERD symptoms.
Adopt a GERD-friendly diet
Making diet changes is a challenge for most adults. However, RefluxMD has identified 5 steps to an effective acid reflux diet, allowing anyone to take small baby steps or giant leaps. What you eat; portion size; how frequently you eat; the composition of the foods you consume, and when you eat are important factors the will impact your GERD symptoms.
Make the necessary lifestyle changes
Here a few tips to prevent acid reflux and heartburn.
- Do not to sleep or lie down immediately after a meal. We recommend that you eat your final meal of the day at least three hours before you retire.
- You should stop smoking since it relaxes the LES.
- Reduce your use of alcohol, or stop drinking alcohol altogether. Alcohol is both a trigger food, and it relaxes your LES.
- Raise the headboard of your bed by 7 inches. Gravity will help keep any stomach contents where they belong, in the stomach.
- Consider eating three small meals and three small snacks every day.
- Drink plenty of water. The amount of recommended water in ounces is equal to one-half of your body weight in pounds. (180 pounds = 90 ounces of water)
- Try to avoid stress. Stress does not cause GERD, but it will stimulate more symptoms.
Partner with a GERD-expert
Your family doctor or internist cannot properly diagnose this disease. More importantly, if you have GERD, they are unable to evaluate your esophagus to determine if it is damaged or progressed to a more complicated condition. We have several lists of GERD experts, but you can get started by using our Find A GERD Expert Tool.
Consider antireflux surgery
If you have maintained a healthy BMI, adopted a GERD-friendly diet, experimented with natural home remedies, used less powerful antireflux medications, and made the necessary lifestyle changes, and you are not satisfied with your symptom relief, then you should consider antireflux surgery. There are many options for you to consider today, and we recommend our article, GERD treatment procedures at a glance to learn more.
Are you ready to treat your heartburn?
Heartburn is only a symptom of a more serious underlying condition – GERD. Too many adults ignore their symptoms until it is too late. Unfortunately, as GERD progresses, treatment doors close, leaving you fewer and fewer options.
It’s time to get started! You can build your path to relief and good health —- and RefluxMD is here to help you. Don’t put off this chance for relief and run the risk of serious complications. YOU CAN DO THIS!