When I was pregnant with twins I discovered a not-so-pleasant sensation I’d never experienced before—heartburn, also called acid reflux. I always imagined this was something that struck older folks, or those ingesting copious amounts of junk food. But according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, (a mouthful in itself!), an estimated $2 billion in productivity is lost each week due to various disorders within the heartburn/gastroesophageal realm. That is a lot of time lost to gastric distress.
GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) sufferers can experience heartburn and the two are often misconstrued as one in the same, but GERD can be more chronic and includes symptoms such as sore throat, laryngitis, coughing, and even vomiting. Heartburn is characterized by indigestion and a feeling of burning in the back of the throat or upper chest, stimulated by acid in the esophagus. Sixty percent of the overall population experiences some form of GERD, and more females than males develop some sort of reflux.
When dealing with gastrointestinal issues, and any significant health issues for that matter, it is very important to seek medical advice before any intervention. Janet Zand, a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, says, “It is necessary to get confirmation from your doctor that your symptoms are not something more serious than simple heartburn. For example, h. pylori infection can ignite heartburn or reflux.” Once this is clarified, there are plenty of natural remedies for heartburn relief that will balance your digestive tract.
From an Ayurvedic point of view, heartburn is complicated. According to Erin Casperson, an Ayurvedic Health Counselor and Kripalu Yoga Teacher, “Sometimes heartburn is generated by too much digestive fire, while other times, it signifies too little. If you don’t have enough digestive fire to process your food, it can leave you feeling heavy, with undigested food leading to acid indigestion.”
With this many upset stomachs it behooves us to explore the causes and delve into some natural solutions. Here are some of the best remedies for heartburn relief, which are also holistic alternatives to allopathic treatments.
6 Natural Remedies for Heartburn Relief
Natural Remedy for Heartburn #1: Slow down. Annie B. Kay, R.D., a nutritionist, yoga therapist, and author of Every Bite is Divine notes, “Heartburn or reflux is often the result of eating too much rich food too quickly. I have seen hundreds of clients for this malady who have never been told simply to slow down and chew their food (which straightens out the majority of cases).” Being present for our selves, our meals, and the company with whom we eat, can positively impact digestion and even promote a greater sense of enjoyment with meals. “An ounce of prevention is the best medicine. If you get heartburn regularly, practice slowing down (it should take at least 20 minutes for a meal); chew your food (get into double digits with chews per bite),” says Kay. Also, don’t eat close to bedtime. Lying down after eating is a sure way to get the acids brewing and bubbling.
Natural Remedy for Heartburn #2: Ginger. Long touted for its overall health and immune-boosting properties, ginger is a powerhouse when it comes to supporting digestion. In one study, ginger was found to be six to eight times more effective for heartburn than acid-blocking medication. Tea, tincture, capsule—there are many ways to ingest the plant. For some, chewing ginger raw or in dried/crystalized form, has an immediate effect. Try the options and determine what works best for your body. Notes Casperson, “One way to stave off heartburn is to drink ginger tea 30 minutes before each meal.”
Natural Remedy for Heartburn #3: Fennel. Fennel is a carminative, meaning it relieves gas. Studies have proven that nutritional herbs, such as fennel and ginger, may support healthy digestion. Casperson shares, “If you feel like you are really hungry and have too much stomach acid, drink fennel tea 30 minutes after the meal. It is soothing and will quell the digestive fire, allowing for easy digestion.”
Natural Remedy for Heartburn #4: Probiotics. Healthy intestinal flora and fauna play a huge role in supporting our immune systems, as well as aiding in digestion. When gut bacteria is flourishing, we are going to absorb more nutrients in a more efficient manner. Eating foods rich in natural probiotics will help improve the bacterial makeup of your gut and thereby facilitate healthy digestion.
Natural Remedy for Heartburn #5: Digestive Enzymes. Many over-the-counter antacids lack the ingredients necessary to actually stimulate healthful digestion and simply modify symptoms. Enzymes, such as those found in papaya, ginger, and pineapple, can minimize gastric distress and provide a tasty way to boost digestion.
Natural Remedy for Heartburn #6: Mindful Eating. It is important to be mindful of what you eat, how you eat, and your environment. Scarfing a piece of pizza while standing on the subway platform can create gastric distress. Knowing your body and treating it with thoughtful care can have great impact in avoiding heartburn. Obviously, consuming too much caffeine, sugar, and acidic foods can stimulate acidity. Allowing yourself the space and time to really enjoy each bite will spare you potential indigestion.
If you’re suffering with heartburn or reflux, you must test the remedies to determine what is right for you. And remember: stress plays a huge part in our overall health, and specifically can impact heartburn. So, do what you can to follow a wellness routine that minimizes stress and encourages well-being.