From a swig of apple cider vinegar to a spoonful of mustard, you can supposedly find effective home remedies for heartburn just by rummaging around your cupboard. But do experts actually recommend any of them?
How do home remedies for heartburn work?
As a reminder, heartburn goes by a few aliases — namely, acid reflux and its chronic form, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It occurs when stomach contents like acids flow the wrong way, rising up into your esophagus. Charming, right? Luckily, a few home remedies can often help.
The key to most home remedies is their ability to coat your esophagus, neutralize stomach acid, or both.
To be fair, you probably don’t have this one hanging around your pantry. However, you can find it easily in the digestive aisle.
Alginate, or alginic acid, is an extract from brown seaweed that naturally forms a protective barrier between stomach acid and your esophagus. Sometimes it’s combined with antacids to neutralize stomach acid at the same time.
“I am a big fan of alginate and alginate-based products for heartburn,” says Dr. Parikh. “In fact, this is one of the few natural remedies that has good evidence in the medical literature.”
Have a tub of yogurt you need to get through? Next time heartburn strikes, grab a spoon.
“Yogurt may serve as a coating agent for the esophagus and the upper GI tract,” says Dr. Parikh. “And I’m a proponent of yogurt for all things GI, because it’s beneficial to the gut microbiome in the small intestine.”
Some people find a glass of milk does the trick, too.
Ah, the perfect use for that bunch that’s starting to turn.
Alkaline fruits, which typically have a high content of minerals like potassium, may help prevent heartburn — and ripe bananas are an excellent source.
“Alkaline fruits theoretically can counteract high acid state that predisposes us to heartburn,” says Dr. Parikh. “When patients ask about foods to combat acid reflux, bananas are one of the fruits I suggest.”
Apple cider vinegar
A spoonful of apple cider vinegar, diluted in water, has become trendy for everything from weight loss to lowering cholesterol. Some people include acid reflux in that list.
Experts consistently point out the need for more research. In the meantime, the chorus of believers is loud and growing.
“Anecdotally, apple cider vinegar seems more effective for bloating and digestion and less for heartburn,” says Dr. Parikh. “That being said, I have family members who swear by it for heartburn.”
What about other home remedies for heartburn?
In the natural health community, you’ll also find vocal supporters of baking soda, aloe vera juice, chewing gum, mustard and more for heartburn.
On one hand, in small amounts, you can probably assume these suggestions won’t hurt. On the other hand, there’s little or no research showing they’ll actually help.
Remember: Home remedies for heartburn aren’t permanent solutions.
Nothing in your home or grocery store can actually heal your esophagus if it’s been damaged. And if your heartburn is caused by something like a hiatal hernia, it can actually make it worse. So make sure you’re not putting off a bigger problem.
“If you’re experiencing heartburn more than once a week, reach out to a GI expert,” says Dr. Parikh.
Make an appointment today. Save the cupboard cleanout for tomorrow.