Natural Remedies for Acid Reflux

You may be able to reduce heartburn and acid reflux with natural remedies including diet, lifestyle changes, and supplements. These can help in addition to medications or on their own.

You get heartburn when the contents of your stomach move up into your esophagus (the tube that connects your throat and stomach.) The backflow is called acid reflux.

When acid reflux is severe or chronic, it's called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This article looks at several natural acid reflux remedies and lifestyle modifications that may help control symptoms.

What is Heartburn?

Verywell / Emily Roberts

Symptoms and Causes

The terms heartburn, acid reflux, and GERD are sometimes used interchangeably, but they're not the same thing.

  • Heartburn is a symptom.
  • Acid reflux is a cause of heartburn. The medical name for it is gastroesophageal reflux (GER).
  • GERD is a condition that involves regular bouts of acid reflux and its symptoms.

Symptoms

The primary symptom of GER and GERD is heartburn.

As the name suggests, heartburn is a burning sensation near your heart. The feeling actually comes from behind your heart, inside the esophagus.

You may also regurgitate, which is when stomach contents (food and digestive fluids) wash back up into the esophagus.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Nausea after eating
  • Feeling like food is stuck in your chest
  • Coughing and/or wheezing
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Frequent hiccups
  • Hoarse voice
  • Sore throat

Bending over or lying down may make symptoms worse.

Heartburn vs. Heart Attack

Don't assume symptoms including throat pain, chest pain, regurgitation, sore throat, and a sour taste in the mouth are just heartburn. They may indicate a heart attack. Get emergency medical care for these symptoms.

Causes

When you swallow food, it goes down through the esophagus, passes through a ring of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), then enters the stomach.

Reflux happens when the LES doesn't close properly, allowing some of your stomach contents to escape. Some factors that increase your risk of reflux are:

  • Hiatal hernia (when part of the stomach pushes up through the diaphragm)
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy
  • Scleroderma (an autoimmune disease that hardens soft tissues)
  • Lying down within three hours of eating
  • Drinking alcohol

Certain medications can increase your reflux risk, as well. They include:

Diet and Lifestyle Changes

You can do a lot of things to lower your risk of acid reflux and heartburn. Many of these strategies support a generally healthy lifestyle. Others are small habits that can make a big difference.

Avoid Your Trigger Foods

Often, certain foods are behind episodes of acid reflux. Identifying and avoiding those foods can reduce your symptoms.

You might notice that certain foods or beverages bother you. Other times, it may not be obvious. A food and symptom diary can help you identify trigger foods.

Common food triggers include:

  • Acidic foods (citrus, tomatoes, tomato-based foods)
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine (from coffee, tea, and other sources)
  • Chocolate
  • Fried or greasy foods
  • Mint
  • Spicy food

Some people find that sweets, high-glycemic-index foods (i.e., those that digest quickly), and meals that are too hot may trigger heartburn.

Aim for a Healthy Weight

Losing weight may help reduce your heartburn symptoms. Some research has shown strong connections between being overweight or obese and GER/GERD.

The rate of GERD in people with obesity may be as high as 79%. Meanwhile, the overall prevalence of GERD in the United States is estimated at between 18% and 28%.

Gaining weight increases your risk and losing weight appears to lower it. This is believed to be due to excess body fat's impact on the metabolism and mechanical changes around the esophagus, stomach, and LES.

Speak with your healthcare provider about a diet and exercise plan that can help you reach a healthy weight.

Don't Overeat

Overeating is connected to heartburn and reflux, so you should be careful not to overeat. This may be harder than it sounds, especially if you're not used to paying attention to your body's signals that it's full.

To start paying more attention, you can use techniques of what's called mindful eating. Mindfulness means "paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally."

Eating mindfully means taking the time to focus on and pay attention to your food, your body, and the experience of eating. Some research suggests it can help you eat less and select healthier foods. To get started:

  • Pause before each meal. Take a moment to notice whether you're hungry, bored, stressed, angry, or sad. If you're not actually hungry, don't eat.
  • Eliminate mealtime distractions. Avoid reading, checking your phone, or watching television while you eat so you can be more aware of being sated.
  • Pause after each bite. Pay attention to whether you feel full or are still hungry. If you're full, stop eating.

The opposite of mindful eating is mindless or unconscious eating. An example of unconscious eating is putting away a whole bag of chips while watching a movie, and only realizing how much you've eaten when there's no more left.

Eating Too Fast?

You may have heard that eating too fast can cause GER or GERD, but some studies have found otherwise. The researchers say it appears the speed of eating doesn't affect the frequency of reflux symptoms in people with GERD or in women who have obesity.

Change Your Sleep Habits

Several nighttime habits can help ease symptoms of acid reflux and GERD. These habits all have to do with the effect of gravity on your stomach contents.

  • Don't eat for three hours before going to bed. Lying down with a full stomach can cause reflux, as gravity no longer helps keep stomach contents down.
  • Elevate the head of your bed. Some experts recommend increasing the effect of gravity by putting an 8-inch block under the legs. You can also use bed risers, wedge pillows, and mattress wedges.
  • Sleep on your left side. Your stomach is on the left side of your abdomen. Lying on that side puts your stomach below the espophagus. When you lie on the right, stomach contents put pressure on the LES.

Elevating the head while sleeping is usually only suggested for people with nighttime symptoms or symptoms that prevent them from sleeping.

Avoid Tight-Waisted Clothing

Clothing with snug waistlines or belts puts pressure on your stomach. Common wisdom holds that this can lead to acid reflux. To test this, you may want to experiment with changes like:

  • Lower-rise pants/skirts
  • Elastic waistbands
  • Pants/skirts one size larger than you normally wear

You might want to try dresses instead of pants or a skirt, as well.

Ease Your Stress

Stress can trigger reflux symptoms in some people. You may want to find ways to manage your stress, such as:

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Deep breathing
  • Yoga
  • Relaxing pastimes, such as art

If you struggle with stress management, you may want to see a therapist for help.

Nix the Nicotine

Nicotine in cigarettes and some vaping solutions may weaken the lower esophageal sphincter, according to research.

If you can stop smoking/vaping, it may help relieve your GER and GERD symptoms. A nicotine addition is difficult to break, so talk to your healthcare provider about effective ways to quit.

Natural Remedies

A lot of natural remedies have been touted for heartburn or acid reflux relief. These remedies are generally not well researched and should be used with caution. Remember that even natural substances can cause negative side effects and drug interactions.

Some herbal and natural treatments that may help relieve symptoms include:

  • Apple cider vinegar: Studies have been inconsistent on whether this helps with reflux symptoms.
  • Ginger: Some researchers say ginger "shows promise" as a heartburn treatment.
  • Aloe vera juice: Combination products containing aloe vera juice have shown promise against heartburn.
  • Papaya: In studies, papaya has been shown to make minor improvements to heartburn.
  • Turmeric/curcumin: Combination products containing this curry spice have shown promise against heartburn.
  • Deglycyrrhizinated (DGL) licorice root: Licorice may protect the esophagus from damage by increasing mucus. Special processing removes a substance that can cause dangerous side effects.
  • D-limonene: This substance comes from citrus essential oil. Limited research has shown it to be effective at relieving GERD.
  • Honey: Studies suggest honey increases mucus and promotes healing, which may help treat reflux and esophageal damage.
  • American ginseng (Panex quinquefolium): Animal studies suggest this plant may help relieve GERD symptoms.
  • Marshmallow root (Althea officinalis): This herb has shown promise in animal studies as a gastro (stomach) protectant.
  • Slippery elm: Combination products containing substances from this tree have shown promise against heartburn.

Talk to your healthcare provider before trying any natural remedies for heartburn, acid reflux, or GERD.

The Effects of Mint

Mint is often used to soothe an upset stomach or irritable bowel, but research suggests it can contribute to reflux by relaxing the LES. To remove this risk, take enteric-coated capsules. They dissolve lower in the digestive tract, so they don't affect the LES.

Summary

Acid reflux is a medical condition where the contents of your stomach flow back into your esophagus. You can treat this medical condition through lifestyle changes, diet, and natural remedies.

Whether you avoid trigger foods, reduce stress, strive to reduce your weight, or try other natural treatments, you can help relieve acid reflux in various ways.

Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about any treatments you want to try.

A Word From​ Verywell

Changing your diet and lifestyle may be enough to keep your heartburn in check. But it's important to see your healthcare provider if you experience regular or severe symptoms. Over time, acid reflux-associated heartburn may damage your esophagus and lead to complications.

Fortunately, a lot of treatments are available to relieve symptoms and prevent damage. It just takes time to find out what works best for you.

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