How To Get Rid Of Heartburn
By Panasha Desai, Pharmacist
Heartburn is a common issue that most people have to deal with at some point in their lives. It often appears suddenly and can feel unpredictable. Heartburn can be uncomfortable or even painful, it disturbs sleep and can cause stress, which is why so many people want easy solutions for getting rid of heartburn.
As a pharmacy, we have plenty of experience in helping people to get rid of heartburn. Here, we explain the causes of heartburn, so you know what to watch out for, and offer some solutions – including natural remedies and medicines.
What Is Heartburn (Acid Reflux)?
Heartburn is a colloquial name for acid reflux. It is the feeling of burning in your chest, caused by stomach acid moving towards the throat. When heartburn is continuous, reaching the throat and doing so frequently, it becomes gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD).
The main symptoms of heartburn are a sour taste in the mouth and/or a burning feeling in your chest. You may also experience a recurring cough or hiccups, bad breath, a hoarse voice, bloating or a queasy feeling.
What Causes Heartburn?
Heartburn has a few potential causes. This makes identifying exactly what is causing a particular incidence of heartburn difficult to determine. Anything that increases the production of acid in the stomach can cause acid reflux.
Some of the most common causes of heartburn are:
- Fatty or spicy foods – such as cheese, beef, pork and foods made with chillies
- Acidic foods and drinks – such as coffee, alcohol, tomatoes and chocolate
- Medicines – notably anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as ibuprofen
- Stress or anxiety
Getting Rid Of Heartburn (Acid Reflux)
Getting rid of heartburn in the short term and the long term are two different but related things. In the short term, we are talking about relieving the symptoms of acid reflux and avoiding what might make it worse. In the long term, with an increased awareness of what causes flare-ups for you, you can stop experiencing heartburn – or at least mediating the impact of it by being ready with remedies that work for you.
Stop Acid Reflux Now: Natural & Home Remedies For Heartburn
If you are experiencing heartburn and want some go-to natural home remedies to get the relief you need, then try some of the following:
- Stand up or elevate your head above your stomach if lying down – with your head (and throat) elevated, stomach acid won't be able to easily travel up and cause the symptoms of acid reflux.
- Chew gum – specifically chewing sugar-free gum after eating a meal. Chewing gum encourages your mouth to produce saliva, which helps to neutralise your stomach acid and therefore minimise your heartburn.
- Drink a glass of milk – this should be a glass of skimmed milk as fat slows down stomach emptying. Drinking a glass of milk will help push down and neutralise stomach acid.
- Drink bicarbonate of soda in water – slowly drinking a teaspoon of bicarb in a glass of water will help neutralise your stomach acid.
Prevent Heartburn: Tips For Avoiding Acid Reflux Flare-Ups
Heartburn can be an issue that comes back again and again. If you aren't sure what is causing your heartburn and need somewhere to start, try following these tips for preventing heartburn:
- Eat over 4 hours before going to bed – your stomach acid is used to breaking down food during digestion. Lying down will make it easier for acid to slide up to your throat and so can increase your symptoms of heartburn. Having fully digested your food before going to bed will decrease the chance of acid reflux.
- Wear loose or comfortable fit clothing – tight clothing can press on your abdominal area and push stomach acid upwards.
- Don't smoke or drink alcohol – nicotine (in cigarettes) will relax your throat muscles, which can make acid reflux more likely. Alcohol makes your body produce more stomach acid, increasing the chance of acid reflux.
- Take time to relax and de-stress – anxiety and stress will affect your body's ability to function properly, such as the creation of prostaglandins which protect the stomach from the effects of stomach acid.
- Keep a food diary so you can avoid foods and drinks that trigger your acid reflux – you may need to track what causes your heartburn to flare-up by keeping a food diary. As mentioned above, spicy, fatty and naturally acidic foods are all common culprits of heartburn so if you decide to remove foods from your diet to prevent acid reflux, start there.
If you are regularly experiencing heartburn, or the herbal and natural remedies aren't working for you, then you should consider speaking to your pharmacist or GP about medicinal solutions.
Your pharmacist can advise on over the counter medicines to relieve heartburn. These are called antacids and can help relieve the symptoms of acid reflux. They can come in liquid forms or chewable tablets and work by neutralising your excess stomach acid.
An example of an antacid is:
If you go to a GP, they may prescribe stronger medicine to help you get rid of your heartburn – or diagnose you with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD). Prescribed heartburn medicines are more powerful and are called proton pump inhibitors (PPI). Two of the most common PPIs are omeprazole and lansoprazole. Based on your medical history and any other medications you are on, your GP will decide which is best for you, if any.
The products offered are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any illness or disease, or to replace the advice of a medical professional. Results are not guaranteed and may vary from individual to individual.