These Are the Best Home Remedies for Heartburn, According to a Doctor

As someone who personally experiences uncomfortable bouts of heartburn and acid reflux, I can attest to not only how physically annoying the condition is, but how inconvenient it can be as well. Whether I'm mid-burpee during an intense workout or enjoying margs and spicy tacos with friends (as was the case during my latest episode), heartburn doesn't discriminate when it comes to timing or intensity. Frustrating, yes, but according to experts, heartburn and acid reflux aren't usually random acts of violence incurred by the body.

From lifestyle to food choices, the onset of heartburn isn't typically without rhyme or reason. For some, suffering from heartburn can feel embarrassing or isolating, but it's actually incredibly common (with a projected 20% of the population experiencing symptoms weekly) and a growing problem within the U.S. To learn more about the condition—what it is, how it's different than acid reflux, and how to manage it—we spoke with Mia Finkelston, MD, a board-certified family physician who treats patients via telehealth app LiveHealth Online. Ahead, seven helpful natural home remedies for heartburn and along with everything else a doctor wants you to know about the condition. Keep scrolling!

But first, what is heartburn?

Photo:

Stocksy

"I explain heartburn to my patients as stomach acid that finds its way up the esophagus and sometimes—in severe cases—into the throat and mouth," Finkelston tells us. She explains that essentially, the physical feeling of acid in an environment of our body where it's not normally present triggers the burning sensation we correlate with heartburn, and the discomfort we feel is typically located on the left side of the chest in the same vicinity of our heart. Hence, the "heart" in heartburn.  

The Symptoms:

According to Finkelston, those suffering from heartburn will feel that aforementioned infamous burning sensation under the breastbone, and oftentimes it will be experienced after eating, when lying down, or while bending over. She also points out that these types of symptoms can be worse at night. 

Additionally, Medical News Today cites a rising sensation of pain (possibly reaching the jaw), a foul, acrid taste in the mouth, difficulty swallowing, and other feelings of indigestion as potential symptoms associated with heartburn. 

Heartburn vs. Acid Reflux

Photo:

Stocksy

One question I was itching to ask Finkelston about is the relationship between heartburn and acid reflux. Oftentimes we use the two interchangeably (myself included), but I was curious—are they actually the same thing? According to Finkelston, yes and no.

"Yes, technically acid reflux and heartburn are lumped together, but while heartburn happens occasionally, or just after eating certain foods, acid reflux (GERD- gastroesophageal reflux) tends to interfere with a person’s daily routine and can even occur without the usual aggravating factors." So really, the difference comes down to frequency.

"When acid reflux begins to bother you more than two to three times a week, it is time to talk to yourdoctor," says Finkelston. "The first line recommendations will be to address your lifestyle and make changes. However, if those first suggestions don't prove to be helpful or are unsuccessful, then medications can be used on an as needed or a daily basis."

What will make heartburn worse:

Photo:

Stocksy

Before we get to the best home remedies and treatment options for heartburn, it's important to address what could be causing or worsening the condition in the first place. And as Finkelston shares with us, a mix of lifestyle factors and/or incorrect treatment can be held responsible.

In terms of lifestyle, those who are obese are more prone to pressure both internally and externally on the stomach, which can trigger acid reflux, and women who are pregnant can experience a similar situation in which the fundus of the uterus presses into the intestines and stomach creating pressure. Hormones, Finkelston notes, can also be at play. 

Additionally, she cites certain food choices as potentially incendiary when it comes to causing heartburn with options like tomato-based foods (think  red sauce and ketchup), mint and menthol, alcohol, spicy foods, onions, fatty foods, and carbonated or caffeinated beverages as especially problematic. Oh, and eating a lot in one sitting—especially within an hour or two before bedtime—can also put you at greater risk. 

"Specialists have noted that strenuous exercise can make heartburn and acid reflux worse in some cases," Finkelston adds. "Not eating can make people experience a raw or burning sensation over their stomach, so eating smaller meals that are perhaps higher in protein can keep that acid under control."

What Will Make Heartburn Better:

1. Sip Some Milk

Photo:

Stocksy

"Milk, which can help buffer stomach acid, is always a good start when you experience an unsettled stomach or reflux symptoms," says Finkelston.

2. Prioritize a Healthy Diet

Photo:

Stocksy

To prevent heartburn or keep heartburn at bay, Finkelston says one of the best home remedies for the condition is eliminating the foods listed above and concentrating on eating a fresh, whole food–based diet. 

3. Sit Up After a Meal

Photo:

Stocksy

"Remember that gravity can be helpful and lying flat on a sofa or in bed can exacerbate heartburn," Finkelston warns. "I suggest trying to sit upright for at least an hour after meals."

4. Ditch (or Loosen) Your Belt

Photo:

Stocksy

"Making sure your belt is not too tight and moving around gently after eating is important when dealing with heartburn and one of the easiest at-home remedies," says Finkelston, which makes sense, considering a belt constraints and adds pressure to our abdomen and digestive areas. 

5. Take a Stroll

Photo:

Stocksy

"A light walk to the mailbox or around your yard or neighborhood can help alleviate some of the symptoms of heartburn," says Finkelston. However, even though keeping your health and weight in check and living an active lifestyle are important for preventing and treating heartburn, she notes, again, that strenuous exercise (especially after eating!) can excite or worsen heartburn. 

6. Limit Antacids

Photo:

Stocksy

According to Finkelston, taking over-the-counter antacids (which help neutralize stomach acid) can be helpful, as long as you're not overdoing it. Essentially, these act as a bandage and can worsen heartburn in the long run if you're taking them several days a week or more.

7. Be Mindful of Portion Sizes

Photo:

Stocksy

Everyone is different, but according to Finkelston and other reputable sources, overindulging in terms of portion size isn't doing you or your heartburn any favors. Thus, being mindful at mealtime is one of the easiest (and most effective) home remedies for heartburn. 

"Stay active, eat healthy meals, and limit your portion sizes so that the stomach can handle the load you're taking in," she recommends. 

Next up: The 20 Healthiest Vegetables You Can Eat, According to Nutritionists