Heartburn or acid reflux is a burning pain felt in your throat and chest.
It’s estimated that over 40% of Irish suffer from regular heartburn but almost everyone will experience it at some stage.
If you’ve ever experienced heartburn or suffer it regularly then this post is definitely for you.
What Is Heartburn?
Heartburn is acid reflux, which starts when stomach acid makes it way back up into the esophagus, resulting in a burning sensation in the chest.
Your lower esophageal sphincter should stop food from reentering the esophagus, however, if the sphincter is weakened or relaxed, then heartburn will likely occur along with some of the unpleasant symptoms mentioned below.
- Burning sensation in the throat
- Hot or acidic like fluid in the throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Chest pain or burning
- A burning feeling in the chest after eating
- The feeling of food being “stuck” in throat or middle of chest
- Chronic coughing
- Sore throat
- Eating acidic foods
- Pressure on the stomach
- High fat intake
So what can you do to relieve heartburn? Heres 7 ways to naturally relieve heartburn fast.
1. Rethink Your Drink
Unfortunately for coffee lovers, that morning cup could be the reason behind your heartburn.
Caffeine can also cause your lower esophageal sphincter to relax, which allows acid to travel back up from your stomach, into your esophagus and cause those nasty heartburn symptoms.
But I get it, you love coffee. You need a solution. Heres two heartburn friendly alternatives.
Choose Dark Roasts
Dark roasted coffee beans retain less acid than lighter roasts. The extra roasting time also develops a compound that blocks acid production in the stomach. If you need to get your coffee fix, it’s best to opt for a darker roast or a brew that’s lower in acidity. Decaf coffee is also a good alternative because the amount of acid is reduced during processing.
Calcium Neutralises Acid
Calcium is used as an ingredient in antacids because it neutralizes stomach acid. You can get a similar effect in coffee by adding milk or cream. Low-fat milk is the healthiest choice because 1 tablespoon has barely a trace of fat, yet provides a little more calcium than heavy cream or half-and-half.
Herbal and Fruit Teas
If you really want to make a difference to the morning burn and you’re not a huge coffee fan anyway, try swopping your coffee for some herbal, green or fruit tea. They’re generally caffeine free, which is perfect and they also have a calming effect on your stomach, with less irritation.
Pukka teas are the most popular brand with plenty of varied flavours. They’re widely available but I’ve bought them in The Organic Supermarket in Blackrock and The Punnet in Sandycove.
Not a tea fan? No problem, why not make a green smoothie? Considering you’re looking for a morning substitute for coffee, this could be the ideal option. Green smoothies will give you a big kick of fibre, which will keep your digestion system moving and prevent the build up of excess stomach acid.
They’re also going to give you energy and reduce your dependance on a caffeine by alkalizing your blood and allowing red blood cells to transport oxygen around your body to produce more energy.
Checkout our green smoothie ingredient table, where you can mix and match your preferred ingredients to make a smoothie you’ll enjoy.
2. Switch Your Sleep Routine
Heartburn can keep you awake at night and lack of sleep can cause heartburn. A vicious cycle and one that normally leads to plenty of coffee in the morning to revive yourself. See the problem?
I was born with a weakened lower esophageal sphincter, so heartburn is a regular problem for me, or at least it used to be. Focusing on a better quality of sleep will do wonders for your heartburn, your food choices the next day and will help you steer clear of the coffee causing you heartburn in next morning.
Avoid Bedtime Snacks
Avoid bedtime snacks and try to keep your last meal of the day to at least two or three hours before bed. You’ll have time to digest your food so that you don’t have to deal with pesky heartburn symptoms at night.
Sleep On An Incline
You can also try raising the head of your bed up to sleep with your head and chest elevated. Try using a special pillow designed to let you sleep at an incline or lifting the top part of your bed up a few inches with blocks. This can prevent the backup of stomach acid and ease digestion.
Sleep On Your Side
Finally, adjusting your sleeping position can help too. I’ve never tried this one because I move around in my sleep so I know it won’t work for me but studies have shown that sleeping on your left side can help with digestion while sleeping on your right side has been shown to actually aggravate heartburn symptoms.
Take A PPI
If all else fails, PPI’s a great option to get some sleep. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) reduce the production of acid by blocking the enzyme in the wall of the stomach that produces acid. Ive used them for years and found them far more effective than Rennie or Gaviscon. You can get 40mg Nexium PPI’s over the counter in most pharmacies.
3. Help Your Body Digest Food
An overlooked method to stop heartburn is to actually stimulate the digestion process.
Insufficient stomach acid can leave food sitting in your stomach which is a leading cause of heartburn and its symptoms. You’ve probably been under the belief that too much stomach acid causes heartburn, but in fact too little cause be a leading cause of heartburn, as it creates an environment in your stomach where food cant be digested properly.
Apple cider vinegar has a similar pH to stomach acid and can help promote a healthier digestive environment by mimicking stomach acid. It can also help treat some symptoms of heartburn, including gas and bloating.
Even a tablespoon in the morning should help, but if not then increase to 2-3 daily.
Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar is a brand I’ve used before and recommends to clients. You can buy it in most health food stores or on Evergreen.ie for only €5.10!
4. Chew Some Gum
Chewing gum can increase saliva production, which can dilute and wash away any acid built up in the esophagus. Your saliva becomes more alkaline and can neutralize the acid in your stomach, while treating the symptoms of heartburn.
Chewing gum may reduce inflammation and soothe your esophagus. Studies have shown the best time to chew gum is for an hour after eating and it can reduce symptoms of esophageal reflux and alleviate heartburn.
Chewing gum is definitely a handy remedy if your out and don’t have access to anything else that may help. Some believe flavour plays a role and that minty or peppermint flavours may actually aggravate heartburn but that hasnt been my experience. I have found some minor relief with Wrigleys Extra Ice White Chewing Gum.
5. Study Your Diet
If you’ve followed the first four steps and not experienced relief, its time to look at your diet.
I know from personal experience that if you’re eating heartburn triggering foods, the first four steps will only go so far in relieving heartburn symptoms. Fortunately the trigger foods are pretty easily avoided.
There following are the main foods that will trigger heartburn symptoms:
- Citrus fruits, like oranges and grapefruit. This includes cordial drinks like MiWadi, which i have always found to be a serious trigger.
- Tomatoes (especially tomato puree)
- Spicy foods, such as chili or peppers
- High fat foods, like cheese, avocado, and nuts
- Fizzy drinks
You may find that one of these foods in isolation doesn’t cause you much grief, but two or maybe 3 in a day might be a recipe for strong heartburn symptoms. I find i can tolerate about 2 together but as soon as i dink alcohol, i would struggle to eat any of the foods above without triggering heartburn symptoms.
Ether way, limiting these foods in your diet is a good idea. Rather than focusing on the foods you’re avoiding that you wont tolerate; think about all the foods that you will tolerate well and build your meals around them.
Fill your plate with lean proteins and green or non-starchy vegetables, while limiting your fats. Remember high fat foods wont do you any favors so be conscious to keep them to about the size of your thumb (female) or two thumbs (male) per meal. Fruits and some dairy are fine but the priority is the lean proteins and greens. Ive included a full list of all these foods below for reference.
Keeping a food diary allows you review your food and heartburn occurrences to see what set it off and will help you manage the symptoms going forward. Record what you eat and note if you experience heartburn after eating. You will start to notice a pattern and identify the specific foods that trigger your heartburn. Trigger foods can be different for people but Its pretty simple to avoid them once you’re keeping a food diary and you know exactly what your trigger foods are.
Besides what you’re eating, how you’re actually eating can be a major factor when it comes to acid reflux and heartburn. Overeating is a major contributor to heartburn, and if you find that you experience heartburn right after a big meal, it may be to blame for your symptoms. Try sliding back on your portion sizes and seeing how you feel; it can make a world of difference in relieving heartburn. If you follow my advice and start to include more lean proteins and greens, this will happen without much effort.
Chicken, Turkey, Lean Beef (95%+), Lean Pork, Veal, Venison, Duck, Quail, Lamb, Kangaroo (Lidl Select Range), Eggs, All Fish, All Shellfish
Oats, Rice (White or Brown), Sweet Potato, White Potato, Quinoa, Butternut Squash, Fruits, Wholemeal Pita Wrap *, Gluten Free Bread *, Gluten Free Pasta
* The carbs in Breads and Pastas is huge compared to Sweet Potatoe for example. You’ll have a lot less food and your diet will be hard to stick to if its made up of Breads and Pastas.
Coconut Oil, Avocados, Peanut Butter, Almond Butter, Olive Oil, Olives, Macadamia Oil, Organic Butter, Nuts
Artichoke, Arugula, Asparagus, Bean Sprouts, Beetroot, Beets, Bok choy, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery, Chicory, Cucumber, Egg Plant, Escarole, Green Beans, Kale, Leeks, Lettuce, Mixed Salad Bags, Mushroom, Onion, Pea Pods, Peppers, Rocket, Romaine, Spinach, Sprouts, Sugar Snap Peas, Tomato, Watercress
6. Sit Up Straight
Believe it or not, the way you sit can cause heartburn. Similar to the idea of the ideal sleep position we talked about earlier; keeping your torso at a level higher than your legs is ideal after a meal.
In other words, lying down directly after eating is one of the worst things you can do if you suffer from heartburn. Being in this position after a meal, with a full stomach can cause food to push up against the lower esophageal sphincter and will increase your chances of triggering acid reflux.
Instead, try to remain either standing or sitting upright for two to three hours after eating a meal. Gravity will do the work by keeping stomach acid in your stomach. Recliners are also useful if you really want to lie down as you will still be in the ideal position with your legs below your torso.
7. Are Your Clothes too Tight?
I remember I was away on a trip and packed in a hurry. I managed to pack a pair of jeans that I haven’t worn in years and are now a long way from fitting.
I had heartburn for hours because my jeans were too tight! They looked ridiculous too. The pressure tight clothing places on your stomach can push stomach acid towards your esophagus, leading to heartburn and acid reflux.
Obese and pregnant people regularly complain of heartburn for the same reason, they’re clothes are simply too tight.
Shedding a few pounds can help relieve some pressure and eliminate heartburn if you’re overweight or obese.
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Phil “Akaline” Giffney