Home Remedies to Relieve Heartburn

Mild cases of heartburn can be treated at home. Here are a few remedies to consider.

Close up view of asian woman drinking milk.
Adobe Stock

Heartburn is a painful or burning sensation that may occur just below or behind the breast bone.¹

More than 60 million people in America experience heartburn at least once a month. It is most commonly caused by acid reflux or a chronic condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).²

Home remedies may help relieve symptoms of heartburn or prevent them from occurring. Learn more about these remedies, as well as when to see a doctor.

At-Home Heartburn Remedies to Try

It is possible to treat mild cases of heartburn at home. Some remedies may help relieve this symptom when it occurs and may help prevent it from occurring at all. Here are some strategies that may provide relief:

Elevate the Bed

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) advises waiting two to three hours after eating a meal before lying down.³

Sleeping with your head raised may also help avoid heartburn. Raising the head 6 inches higher than the stomach can help stop food from traveling up the esophagus.²

This can be achieved by using a wedge pillow under the mattress, or using blocks or bricks to raise the legs of the bed at the head of the bed. Using extra pillows may not be effective as it is easy to slip off of them during the night.

Chew Gum

Chewing gum may be an easy way to help relieve mild cases of heartburn.

When a person chews gum, saliva is produced. Saliva contains enzymes which makes it slightly alkaline. When saliva is swallowed, this can help reduce heartburn, explains the Gastrointestinal (GI) Society/Canadian Society of Intestinal Research.⁵ A small, older study in the Journal of Dental Research backs that up. It found that chewing sugar-free gum for 30 minutes after eating can reduce reflux, a common cause of heartburn.⁶,²

However, the the GI Society says consuming too much artificially sweetened gum may cause diarrhea in some people. Ingesting air while chewing gum can also lead to gas and bloating. It is best to chew gum in moderation to avoid issues like flatulence.⁶ It's also best to avoid spearmint and peppermint gum. Mint can relax the ring of muscles connecting the esophagus to the stomach, called the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing stomach contents to back up.⁶,⁸

Take an Antacid

In some cases, a healthcare provider may recommend antacids to treat heartburn that is mild. These should not be used every day or in the event of severe symptoms, unless advised by a doctor.³

Antacids can be purchased over the counter. They may cause side effects like constipation or diarrhea.⁹

Avoid Trigger Foods

Some people who experience heartburn may find that certain foods can trigger their symptoms or worsen symptoms.

The NIDDK says that in some cases, a healthcare provider may recommend reducing the intake of these foods or avoiding them altogether.¹⁰

Foods that have been identified as potential triggers include:¹⁰

  • Spicy foods
  • Foods high in fat
  • Mint
  • Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Citrus fruits
  • Tomatoes

Drink Milk

Drinking a glass of cold milk may help assist with relieving symptoms of heartburn, but views on this are mixed.

Milk and dairy are not on the list of "trigger foods" that the American College of Gastroenterology advises people with heartburn to avoid.¹¹ And while the GI Society notes that the alkaline effects of milk may make it a soothing beverage, it can also make things worse. The fat and protein in milk may cause heartburn to become worse during digestion.⁵

An alternative is calcium-based over-the-counter remedies, like Tums, which offer the same benefits.³

Consider Taking Baking Soda

Baking soda may be an easily accessible at home remedy for heartburn, but it should be used in moderation.⁹

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is alkaline and may help neutralize acidity. Some research suggests that it is safe to use occasionally, but overuse can result in alkalosis. This can result in symptoms like vomiting, nausea, muscle spasms and confusion. Baking soda is also high in sodium which may interfere with the absorption of some medications.⁵

Reduce Belly Fat

Having an excessive amount of fat in the abdominal area is one of biggest risk factors for heartburn.¹¹

Losing weight is a good idea if you are overweight or obese. Obesity leads to an increase in pressure in the stomach, which in turn pushes the contents of the stomach into the esophagus, which can cause heartburn.¹¹

GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a serious form of acid reflux which causes heartburn. In some people who are overweight, symptoms of GERD will vanish when the person loses 10 to 15 pounds.¹

Quit Smoking and Stop Using Tobacco

Quitting smoking if you smoke is an effective way to help reduce symptoms of heartburn.⁴

It is also a good idea to stop using any other tobacco products. Chemicals found in both cigarettes and tobacco can weaken the muscles located at the lower part of the esophagus (the lower esophageal sphincter). When this happens, food or acid from the stomach can travel into the esophagus, causing heartburn.⁴

Try Gingerroot

Ginger can help a variety of gastrointestinal complaints like nausea or stomach ache. It may also help reduce acid reflux, which can cause heartburn. But it should be used in moderation.⁵

Some research suggests that it might reduce the production of acid in the stomach, but more research is needed in this area.⁵

Change Your Clothing

Clothes that are tight around the waist can squeeze the stomach in. This may force food back up the esophagus, causing acid reflux and heartburn.¹

Wearing loose clothing and avoiding belts that are tight around the waist may help reduce symptoms of heartburn.¹

When to See a Healthcare Provider

It is important to treat heartburn, as reflux may damage the esophageal lining.¹¹

You should see a doctor immediately if you have heartburn and:¹

  • You have a crushing, burning, squeezing or pressure like feeling in the chest (this may indicate a heart attack)
  • You have black or maroon stools
  • You are vomiting up blood or what looks like coffee grounds

You should also call your healthcare provider if you have heartburn and:

  • It occurs often
  • It won't go away with self-care after a few weeks
  • Symptoms worsen with antacids
  • You believe a medication may be causing the heartburn
  • You are losing weight unintentionally
  • You are having difficulties with swallowing
  • You are wheezing
  • You have a cough that won't go away

Recap

Heartburn can be uncomfortable, but there are a number of home remedies that may help. Sleeping with the head elevated, taking antacids, chewing gum, avoiding trigger foods, and losing abdominal fat, among other things, may help relieve or prevent symptoms. If you are experiencing concerning symptoms like vomiting up blood or black stools, you should see a doctor immediately.

Sources

  1. MedlinePlus. Heartburn.
  2. NIH MedlinePlus Magazine. Heartburn: What You Need to Know.
  3. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Treatment of Indigestion.
  4. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Treatment for GER & GERD.
  5. Gastrointestinal (GI) Society/Canadian Society of Intestinal Research. Natural and Over-the-Counter Heartburn Treatments.
  6. Moazzez R, Bartlett D, Anggiansah A. The effect of chewing sugar-free gum on gastro-esophageal reflux. Journal of Dental Research. 2005;84(11):1062-1065. doi:10.1177/154405910508401118
  7. American College of Gastroenterology. Belching, Bloating, and Flatulence.
  8. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Symptoms & Causes of GER & GERD.
  9. International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. Antacids.
  10. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for GER & GERD.
  11. American College of Gastroenterology. Acid Reflux.
Was this page helpful?
Related Articles