When heartburn strikes, some people reach for a Tums. Others reach for a jar of mustard.
Wondering if mustard, well, cuts the mustard? Before you pin your hopes on a condiment, our expert has advice.
Mustard is one of many popular home remedies for heartburn.
Acid reflux, aka heartburn, is one of those common health problems that seems, on the surface, to have a lot of common household remedies. Rummage around in your pantry or fridge, and you’ll probably come up with a few.
“There are a lot of things that people claim help with heartburn,” says Housein M. Wazaz, MD, a gastroenterologist at MidState Medical Center. “Some people take apple cider vinegar. Some people use baking soda. It’s the same idea.”
At the top of the list: plain yellow mustard. Many people swear a spoonful quickly eases heartburn symptoms. Some even keep mustard packets in their car glovebox as an on-the-go remedy.
But there’s no scientific proof that mustard actually helps with acid reflux.
Like other home remedies for heartburn, the mustard effect might be too good to be true.
So far, experts don’t know if it’s just a coincidence. Even the limited research that does exist — like a recent study in Thailand that looked at curcumin, a key ingredient in mustard — hinges on participants reporting their own symptoms. That leaves a lot of room for error.
“It’s anecdotal: ‘I took this, I felt better,’” says Dr. Wazaz. “But there’s no evidence.”
Still, feel free to reach for the mustard for occasional heartburn.
If you only experience the fiery wrath of heartburn every couple weeks or less, your esophagus tissue is probably healthy.
A spoonful of mustard can’t hurt, even if it may not help.
“If you have heartburn once in awhile and want to take mustard, Tums, apple cider vinegar, whatever, that’s fine,” says Dr. Wazaz.
If you have heartburn more than once a week, talk to a doctor today.
“Mustard is not a replacement for medication. If you have heartburn two or three times a week, it needs to be treated,” says Dr. Wazaz.
That’s because more frequent heartburn often means a condition like esophagitis or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which can mean tissue damage.
When you have tissue damage, you need medication to induce healing — or it could lead to more serious problems, including cancer.
Want a natural heartburn treatment that’s proven? Do this.
“Scientifically speaking, the only natural approach that we know works to treat heartburn is to lose weight, control your waist size, and stop eating three hours before bedtime,” says Dr. Wazaz. “These three things have more evidence than taking mustard.”
If you do that, and check in with your doctor regularly, you can keep the heartburn at bay.
Which means you can save the mustard for sandwiches.