Home heartburn remedies: Can natural remedies help your heartburn?
Heartburn is very common - and very unpleasant. It's triggered when stomach acid backs up into the oesophagus. It makes you feel as though someone has lit a small bonfire in your chest and it's burning its way up to your neck.
You're probably well aware that medications can help calm the burn, but natural heartburn remedies and lifestyle changes are another way to get some much-needed relief. One commonly used "natural" heartburn remedy is calcium.
However if you find yourself taking antacids like sweets and you're having heartburn more than a couple of times a week, it's time to seek medical advice. You may have a condition called GORD - gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. Frequent heartburn can lead to long-term problems - even cancer. But stopping the acid reflux can help prevent complications down the road.
Here is a rundown of some commonly used home remedies for heartburn, and the evidence on whether they work.
Do herbal heartburn remedies work?
There isn't much research into herbal remedies for heartburn. Most of the research has centred on a product that is made with many different herbs including:
- Clown's mustard plant
- German chamomile
- Greater celandine
- Lemon balm
- Milk thistle
Studies have shown that this product reduces acid reflux, stomach pain, cramping and nausea. However it's not clear which herb in the mix relieves symptoms, and peppermint oil can actually worsen heartburn, so it's not a good idea to take it if you have GORD.
Can drinking milk help my heartburn?
You may have heard that drinking a glass of milk can relieve heartburn. While milk may temporarily buffer stomach acid, nutrients in milk, particularly fat, will stimulate the stomach to produce more acid. Even though milk might not be a great heartburn remedy, it's a rich source of bone-building calcium. Try fat-free skimmed milk, and don't overdo it. Drink no more than 225ml (8floz) of skimmed milk at a time - as a snack in between meals. Overfilling the stomach may increase heartburn.
Is chewing gum an effective way to get heartburn relief?
It may sound strange but gum stimulates the production of saliva, which is an acid buffer. Chewing gum also makes you swallow more often, which pushes those nasty acids back out of your oesophagus. When you pick a packet of gum, make sure it's sugar-free so you also protect your teeth, and avoid peppermint flavour.