The diaphragm and a muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter usually prevent heartburn. However, this muscle can sometimes relax and leave the food pipe unprotected from stomach acid.
A person might experience heartburn when stomach acid comes into contact with the lining of the food pipe. This can cause the following symptoms:
- a feeling of burning behind the breastbone, neck, and throat
- taste changes
- voice hoarseness that is made worse by eating, leaning forward, and lying down
The discomfort of heartburn can last for several hours and may develop into a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. GERD can cause frequent heartburn, food sticking, damage to the food pipe, blood loss, and loss of weight.
This article provides 10 simple remedies for heartburn.
Heartburn may progress into a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.
There is a range of measures people can put in place to prevent and treat the symptoms of heartburn. Not all remedies work or are safe for everyone, however. It is important to speak with a doctor about the best solution for you.
Simple remedies for heartburn relief include the following:
Smoking cessation: Quit smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke.
Adapt clothing: Wear loose-fitting clothing to prevent unnecessary pressure on the stomach.
Consider prescription medications: People with heartburn should also speak with their doctor regarding the use of prescription medications and whether they are right for the individual.
Each person reacts to these changes differently, however, so it is important to speak with a healthcare provider before losing too much weight.
Raise the head of the bed: Raising the head of the bed can allow gravity to reduce heartburn symptoms. Placing blocks under the top bedposts that raise the bed by between 6 and 8 inches may work.
Another option is inserting foam wedges between the mattress and box spring to raise the angle of the head of the bed. Pillows are not effective in reducing heartburn symptoms.
Try over-the-counter (OTC) medications: People with heartburn should speak with their doctor about OTC medications for symptom relief. A doctor may recommend antacids, acid reducers, including famotidine or ranitidine, or acid blockers, such as lansoprazole and omeprazole.
Various antacids are available to purchase online.
Use herbal preparations: The use of certain herbal preparations may also be useful.
Chamomile is a herb that can reduce symptoms of GERD.
Some recommended options for treating the symptoms of GERD include:
- slippery elm
- Iberogast, the brand name for a combination of several herbs that a number of reviews have shown to be effective as a GERD treatment
It is important for people to speak with their doctor about potential side effects and drug interactions before starting any herbal supplements. Various herbal remedies are available online.
Try acupuncture: Although there is limited evidence to support its use, acupuncture may be beneficial in relieving the symptoms of heartburn in some people.
Relax: Stress and tension can cause a wide range of unwanted side effects, including heartburn. Relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, or yoga, could provide relief for some symptoms.
Make some simple changes to the diet: There are certain dietary triggers that can affect the occurrence and severity of heartburn.
People with heartburn should avoid the following foods:
- spicy or greasy foods
- caffeinated drinks like coffee
- tomato products
- fizzy drinks
People should sit upright for 3 or more hours after a meal to reduce heartburn symptoms. People should also eat smaller meals and avoid eating in the 2 to 3 hours before sleep.
When to see a doctor
Quitting smoking and avoiding passive smoking can reduce the risk of developing GERD.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends calling a doctor immediately if someone has any of the following symptoms:
- large amounts of vomiting or vomiting that is forceful
- green, yellow, or bloody vomit, or vomit that looks like coffee grounds
- breathing difficulties after vomiting
- mouth or throat pain while eating
- painful or difficult swallowing
Conditions that increase the risk
Pregnancy can increase the risk of GERD.
Factors that increase the risk of developing GERD include:
- a hiatal hernia
- smoking and passive smoking
- certain medical conditions, including dry mouth, asthma, delayed stomach emptying, and scleroderma
- some medications, such as those for treating asthma, allergies, pain, high blood pressure, depression, and insomnia
- dietary irritants, including alcohol, caffeine, fizzy drinks, chocolate, and acidic foods, and juices
The possible complications of heartburn include ulcers, bleeding, and GERD. Changes to cells in the food pipe may also occur, leading to a condition called Barrett's esophagus that increases the risk of cancer of the food pipe.
Other complications include food pipe inflammation and a range of breathing problems that can include:
The food pipe can also narrow, causing a condition known as an esophageal stricture.