It’s like a knife under the ribs or your heart is engulfed in flames. No matter how you describe it, an attack of heartburn is very painful, and can last for just a few minutes or for several hours.
What causes heartburn?
Stomach acid helps us digest our food, but sometimes the ring of muscles at the top of the stomach (the sphincter) becomes weak, allowing acid to ‘leak’ into the oesophagus, and causing the intense burning pain associated with heartburn. And occasionally the stomach acid can also bubble up into the throat – a nasty condition known as ‘acid reflux’.
Why do we get heartburn?
There are several reasons why the sphincter might stop working efficiently. Eating our food too quickly, or eating a large meal late at night, can both cause pressure on the sphincter. This gets worse when we lay down, which is why many people suffer from heartburn at night. Rich spicy food, meals with a high fat content, and food containing tomato, can all have a similar effect,
Caffeine, alcohol and citrus drinks can all interfere with the balance of our stomach acid. Irregular eating patterns can also have a similar effect. Heartburn can become worse during pregnancy because the growing baby puts a strain on the sphincter. Other causes include: stress, smoking, obesity, wearing tight clothing, and some medications.
Many people reach for antacids to relieve heartburn, but these 10 great home remedies have proved themselves to be very effective treatments.
1. Bicarbonate of soda
This time-honored home remedy is a very popular treatment for heartburn. The bicarbonate of soda neutralizes the stomach acid, easing the pain quickly. Simply dissolve a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in a glass of water and drink slowly.
2. Sugar-free chewing gum
Chewing a stick of sugar-free gum increases the production of saliva, which helps to flush the acid out of your oesophagus. By chewing gum for 30 minutes after each meal you can reduce the likelihood of heartburn and also help protect your teeth at the same time.
Licorice has been a favorite home remedy for digestive problems for years and it’s well-known for its stomach healing properties. Nibbling a small amount of licorice regularly is a great way to protect against heartburn. But be careful not to overdo it, because the glycyrrhizic acid in licorice can cause high blood pressure, so choose DGL licorice which has the glycyrrhizic acid removed.
4. Bananas and apples
Bananas and apples both contain a natural antacid which helps protect against heartburn. A daily snack will lessen the likelihood of an episode or you can eat one at the first hint of pain to ward off a full attack.
5. Ginger tea
Again, ginger is renowned for its digestive benefits, and is a great ally in the fight against heartburn. Boil up a few thin slices in 2 cups of water and allow the mixture to infuse for 30 minutes.
6. Chamomile tea
If you’re not keen on ginger, or you fancy a change, try chamomile tea instead. Steep a sprinkle of dried chamomile flowers in boiling water for a few minutes. Add some honey, which adds a delicious sweetness and also contains its own healing properties.
Almonds can also help neutralize stomach acid, so nibble three or four to finish each meal.
This approach is not for the faint-hearted, but mustard has an alkalizing effect on stomach acid. Ready-made mustard also contains vinegar, a weak acid, and surprisingly this also helps eliminate heartburn. A small teaspoon of mild mustard swallowed neat is the easiest way to take this remedy.
Aloe vera juice is used to treat external burns and it can also ease heartburn. Drink half a cup before each meal, but be aware that aloe vera juice also a laxative, so you may prefer a variety with the laxative element removed.
10. Apple cider vinegar
It might seem strange to take an acid to counteract the effects of excess acid, but there’s some evidence to show that additional acid can cause the sphincter to tighten, holding back the stomach acid. Take one tablespoon in a glass of water before meals and at