If you’ve ever had heartburn, you know how very painful and inconvenient it can be. In fact, many people have made a trip to the doctor or emergency room with severe chest pains.
Worried they’d had a heart attack, they were likely relieved to find out it was only heartburn. But that gives you an idea of how painful heartburn can be.
So what can you do to get rid of heartburn quickly. And more importantly, how can you avoid it in the future? Before we answer that question, let’s talk a little bit about what heartburn is and how it’s caused.
What is Heartburn and What Causes Heartburn?
The short definition is simple. Heartburn is a form of indigestion in the chest that causes often severe burning or pain. The pain or burning feeling is caused when stomach acid regurgitates into the esophagus.
A muscular valve called the Lower Esophageal Sphincter is supposed to keep stomach acid in your stomach. But if the Sphincter muscle opens too often or has trouble staying closed, stomach acid can rise up.
When the stomach acid seeps into your esophagus, it can cause mild to intense burning feelings and/or pain.
This pain can be mildly uncomfortable, extremely intense or somewhere in between. I remember getting heartburn during my pregnancies. Sometimes the pain was excruciating and resembled heart attack symptoms.
Can Heartburn be Dangerous?
Most heartburn isn’t dangerous, although it can be very uncomfortable. However, unresolved heartburn over a long period of time can turn serious.
Long-term heartburn can result in the development of Barrett’s Esophagus. Barrett’s Esophagus is considered a pre-cancerous condition can lead to esophageal cancer.
Suffice to say, heartburn isn’t fun. Luckily, there are things you can do to get rid of heartburn. Consider these 12 ways to quickly alleviate heartburn.
1. Eat Long Enough Before Bed
One cause of heartburn is eating too closely to bed time. When you eat a meal and then lie down quickly afterward, the sphincter muscle can relax and fall open. This can make it easier for stomach acid to get into the esophagus and heartburn to occur.
To avoid heartburn, be sure to eat at least two to three hours before bed time. This waiting period gives your body enough time to digest your food and get it out of your stomach. That way the amount of stomach acid in your stomach will be minimized and heartburn will less likely occur.
If your schedule is such that it’s hard to eat that far away from bed time, consider eating very small meals before bed. And make sure those meals are healthy, whole foods meals.
This can help at least minimize the potential of heartburn even if you do eat close to bed time.
2. Drink Apple Cider Vinegar
It might seem weird that drinking something acidic can help with heartburn. What apple cider vinegar can do is neutralize the PH balance of the acid in your stomach.
You don’t have to take much to help heartburn issues – 2 tablespoons vinegar in ½ cup of water should work. Note that the taste of the apple cider vinegar is a bit overwhelming until you get used to it.
However, after time your taste buds should adjust. In fact, my son loves the stuff and drinks it every day, but it did take him time to get used to it.
3. Lose Weight
Another way to get rid of heartburn is to lose weight if you’re carrying extra weight around. Carrying extra weight can be especially troubling for heartburn sufferers if it’s abdominal weight.
The extra weight in the midsection can push on your stomach and push the acid up through the sphincter muscle. This is one reason pregnant women can suffer from heartburn.
You might be wondering how you can lose weight quickly and effectively. Here are some tips.
- Go on a 100% fruit and veggie diet for two weeks
- Incorporate 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise into your day
- Stop drinking soda and alcohol – or cut back drastically
- Cut down on your consumption of wheat and sugar
It’s important to consult your doctor before beginning any weight loss program. Make sure to visit your doctor before following any of the weight loss tips here.
And if you’re pregnant and suffering from heartburn, simply follow the other tips here to reduce heartburn. Weight loss isn’t necessarily recommended for expectant moms.
4. Cut Down on Your Portions
Heartburn can be caused by eating big meals as well. Do you ever notice how heartburn cases rise during Thanksgiving and other big holidays?
Those big meals overwhelm your stomach and make it difficult for the sphincter muscle to do its job. This can increase the amount of stomach acid that makes its way into your esophagus.
Try eating six small meals per day instead of three large meals. Doing so will help your stomach more easily regulate digestion.
Breaking large holiday meals up into two or three smaller trips to the dining table will help as well. And avoid all-you-can-eat buffets or make two or three small trips to the buffet instead of one large one.
Bonus: eating smaller portions each day can promote weight loss as well.
5. Stop Smoking
Yes, it’s true: smoking can cause heartburn. The theory is that the nicotine entering the bloodstream can relax the sphincter muscle. This relaxation of the sphincter muscle makes it easier for acid to seep from the stomach into the esophagus.
Unfortunately, this means that all nicotine-containing items are off the table for heartburn sufferers. Chewing tobacco, nicotine gum and other forms of nicotine must be stopped as well to reduce heartburn.
Since nicotine often does the body harm in other areas too, it might be a good idea to quit anyway. Some of the negative effects of ingesting nicotine include:
- Its highly addictive qualities
- An increased risk of blood clots
- Increased risk of atherosclerosis (plaque formation on artery walls)
- Enlargement of the aorta
For more information on the risks of consuming nicotine, see this article from Medical News Today.
6. Cut Back on Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol is shown to cause some people to have increased instances of heartburn. It’s thought that this is because alcohol consumption can relax the sphincter muscle.
However, alcohol does cause heartburn in some people, while not in others. If you’re one of the people that suffer from heartburn after drinking alcohol, there are steps you can take.
First, cut down on the amount of alcohol you drink. Keeping it to one or two drinks can help minimize heartburn symptoms in some people.
Second, try not to drink alcohol two to three hours before bed. Lying down after drinking alcohol makes it easier for the sphincter muscle to relax, thereby promoting heartburn.
Also, different types of alcohol can affect heartburn sufferers in different ways. Some people may only get heartburn by drinking beer. Others may experience symptoms only when drinking wine or hard liquor.
Work to identify which types of alcohol trigger heartburn symptoms in your body and try your best to avoid them.
7. Eat Cabbage
Cabbage is one food that can help reduce heartburn. Cabbage consumption helps by promoting the good bacteria in your stomach. And it kills the H.pylori bacteria that is connected with heartburn suffering.
Interestingly, some people find that cabbage and other “gassy” foods such as beans may promote heartburn. However, the high levels of vitamins and fiber can reduce heartburn in others.
Note: Other foods included in the cabbage family include broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. So if you can’t “stomach” cabbage, try some of the other foods in the cabbage family instead.
8. Chew Gum
Chewing gum can also help alleviate heartburn symptoms quickly. It’s thought that the extra saliva that gum produces helps keep stomach acid in the stomach where it belongs.
Personally, I’ve found that chewing gum works wonders for reducing heartburn symptoms. I find relief within minutes of chewing gum to combat heartburn symptoms, and it may work for you as well.
It’s important to keep in mind that some gum flavors may work better than others, depending on the person. I’ve found that spearmint or peppermint types of gum work best for me.
9. Eat a Banana
You’ve likely heard that an apple a day can keep the doctor away. But did you know that a banana a day can keep the heartburn away? In fact, bananas are a great benefit to our digestive health as a whole.
They’re high in fiber, which helps things move through the digestive system more rapidly. Bananas also contain prebiotics, which promote probiotics in the stomach.
A healthy balance of good bacteria and bad bacteria in the stomach is important for regulating stomach acid.
While eating bananas may not work for all heartburn sufferers, some find it very effective in reducing heartburn.
10. Avoid Trigger Foods
While some foods help alleviate heartburn symptoms, other can promote heartburn. Let’s talk about three of the most common heartburn trigger foods.
I know, right? Chocolate is well-known to foodies everywhere for lifting moods and being a key ingredient in great-tasting desserts everywhere. Chocolate cake. Chocolate candy. Chocolate chip cookies.
Everything chocolate has a place in somebody’s heart. Unfortunately, chocolate can be a major heartburn trigger for some people.
If you find that heartburn symptoms worsen after eating chocolate-laden treats, you may want to cut back. Do some experimenting as you eat chocolate and see how your digestive system reacts.
Fried foods can also promote heartburn in many people. Some sources call it the most common heartburn-triggering food. It’s thought that the high fat content in fried foods triggers heartburn.
Work to avoid anything deep-fried or pan-fried if you find it causes heartburn.
In fact, any high fat food should be on the “no” list. This includes high fat dairy foods such as Alfredo sauce and cheesecake as well.
Coffee and caffeine-laden sodas can also trigger heartburn in many people. If you find that your daily coffee or soda consumptions are giving you esophageal pain, cut back.
Experiment with lesser amounts or quit consuming caffeine altogether and see if it helps reduce heartburn. And remember that chocolate contains caffeine as well.
When we drink carbonated beverages, the bubbles can expand in our stomachs, causing bloating and heartburn. Even non-caffeinated beverages such as Sprite and mineral waters can cause heartburn symptoms in some people.
Try switching out carbonated beverages for flavored water or plain water. See if the change reduces the number of heartburn episodes you experience.
11. Don’t Wear Tight Clothing
Tight clothing can put extra pressure on your midsection. This extra pressure can increase your chances of experiencing heartburn.
Wearing tight bras, pants or shirts can all put pressure on your midsection, so try and wear comfortable clothing. If anything you wear makes you feel squeezed in or if you’re keeping those “I’ll lose weight someday” clothes, replace them with clothing that fits more comfortably.
Or, if you experience heartburn, think for a moment about what you’re wearing and check your comfort level. Sometimes we don’t even realize when we’re wearing too-tight clothing.
Bonus Hint: Sitting up straight during your waking hours can put less pressure on your midsection as well. Beware of your posture and sit up straight when possible.
12. Elevate Your Head at Bedtime
Another way to reduce heartburn symptoms quickly is to elevate your head at bed time. If you have an adjustable bed, raise the top half up. If not, use an extra pillow under your bed at night.
Or, put 2-by-4 blocks of wood under the headboard of your bed to prop it up a bit. All of these solutions can elevate your upper body and help alleviate heartburn symptoms.
Heartburn certainly can put a dent in your lifestyle, especially if you’re a food lover like I am. However, by taking the steps listed above, you can reduce or eliminate heartburn symptoms altogether.
Try the natural ways listed above for heartburn relief. If you’re still not having any luck reducing heartburn symptoms, consider a visit to your doctor.
He or she may have other ideas to get rid of heartburn.
Have you ever experienced heartburn? If so, how did you cope with the pain and burning? What helped? What didn’t? Share your experience in the comments below.