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What Can You Do for Heartburn?

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Q. I'm trying to find out what causes heartburn and how best to treat it. Is it caused by eating too fast? Can heartburn cause heart attacks?

My boyfriend has discomfort nearly every night. A guy he works with has recommended vinegar, but that seems ridiculous.

A. Heartburn happens when stomach acid splashes back into the esophagus. The corrosive chemicals are irritating to the delicate lining of the gullet.

Many foods and drugs can make heartburn worse. Eating rapidly or overeating may also aggravate it.

We agree that vinegar sounds like the last thing to take for heartburn, but we heard from a reader who found it helpful:

"A doctor advised a family friend to take a tablespoon of vinegar for heartburn relief. I tried two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and it worked. It tastes strong for a few minutes and I thought the heartburn was worse. Then the pain went away for good."

Another unlikely candidate is a spoonful of yellow mustard. Several readers sing its praises. Chewing sugarless gum may sound equally preposterous, but it can alleviate the symptoms surprisingly well.

We list a number of medicines and foods that can contribute to heartburn in our Guide to Digestive Disorders. Chronic heartburn may signal a more serious condition, such as Barrett's esophagus, and requires medical attention. PPIs such as omeprazole or Nexium can control heartburn, but rebound reflux may it hard to stop taking them. 

Heartburn does not cause heart attacks, but the symptoms may be confused.

 

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33 Comments

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Although this works for some people, it did not work for me. What did work was eating smaller meals, noting which foods seemed to cause problems and avoiding them and eating fewer carbs. Good luck! I was diagnosed with Barretts' esophagus (precancerous condition observed in endoscopy), put on meds, got control of condition and am off meds and have been clear of Barretts for several years. There are many things that can help, good luck, if one doesn't work try another.

Organic apple cider vinegar works for heartburn. A little added water smooths the taste. Sauerkraut works at least as well. Best is refrigerated raw sauerkraut made of only cabbage and salt. The natural fermentation process provides probiotics we all need. A spoonful of mustard or candied ginger can help as well.

the cause of reflux may not be excess acid, rather, in my instance, the inability of the esophageal/stomach sphincter to close tight enough, thereby allowing stomach contents/acid being forced up the esophagus. This is why, if you 'suffer' from GERDS, it's important to not consume excess food/fluids. The main worry I have about the medications which claim to control acid is this: the acid is there to protect and enable the GIT to digest foods.

What are the side effects of deliberately reducing that acid? What other physiological system(s) of the body rely on the natural digestion of food? It's a question to which I have not been able to find an answer --- and the drug companies continue to attempt to convince the public to keep popping those purple pills.

5 or 6 almonds {I use raw} always stop heartburn for me. I keep little jars of them around, in my car, purse, etc. But I also found that the Vitamin D3 I was using was giving me a distressing amount of heartburn. I learned about that from this invaluable website.

Apple cider is absolutely hands down the best choice for heartburn....works every time!

Baking Soda and water has always helped me. Just add a small amount (1/2 teaspoon) to a half a glass of water and drink. You will burp a few times and then the heartburn is gone.

I began having heartburn about ten years ago and tried all the OTC meds. They would work for a while and then stop working. Finally I decided to try to manage the issue without Prilosec since I do not trust drug makers and they make a point of the 14 day limit--long enough to get you hooked but will protect them from lawsuits in the future. Clever.

It took a couple of months of almost constant upset stomach but used OTC tablets like Tums. Saw a doctor on tv who said drinking a cup of warm water may help heartburn. Also started drinking mostly filtered water from a Brita pitcher.

Now if I eat dinner late or something I know will cause me problems I take half an antacid tablet with about half a cup of very warm water and sleep through the night with no heartburn. I love raw onions but have not eaten them for years--now I have them whenever I wish. I also use fiber tablets with my doctor's blessing so no irregularity, which also seems to keep my tummy happier. One or two at bedtime is all I need.

The drug companies know about rebound and like good pushers lure us in, then create more and more need for their product.

Thanks for helping people live better!

I found great relief from heartburn by taking mastic gum and DGL.

The best thing I have ever done for my GERD was STOP taking Omerprazole 20 mg. (I was suffering every day, for years)I now never get those "heart attack" attacks, and only once in a while I get mild acid reflux. I do watch my diet more carefully. My regular doctor's PA wanted me to increase the Omerprazole, but my Gastro's PA, said never increase it.

I've mentioned several times that aloe vera juice is great at controlling heartburn, yet, except for one time, I've never seen it listed in your responses.

I drink about three tablespoons (I don't actually measure it, but I would guess it's about that amount)every morning about an hour, or so, before I eat breakfast.

The straight juice tastes terrible, so I put some flavoring in it. You can also buy the juice already flavored. There is also aloe vera gel - it's VERY thick; I like the juice better. It's the consistency of water. As for flavoring it, any product made for flavoring bottled water would work.

Sounding preposterous is one thing, but it's a simple enough test. If vinegar makes no real difference, it won't cost you anything.

OTOH, giving up gluten might make a huge difference.

Heart burn doesn't cause heart attacks, at least not directly, but it can do a lot of bad stuff that's almost as bad. Constant meds to control it, rather than getting at the source and preventing it, are also not good for your long term health.

I have heard from several people that when they started eating low carb their heartburn went away. Cannot vouch for it personally as I only had heartburn a couple of times when I was pregnant (many years ago).

Also a very helpful hint I read about years ago is eating a small handful of almonds. That clears the heartburn up almost instantly.

I found this article to be VERY helpful!
I voted incorrectly.

Many people need digestive enzymes. I know that sounds crazy when the gut is already in an uproar, but it does work-especially for middle aged folks.

It also worked for my nephew who came to live with us. He sounded like an old man. Gut problems, headaches, knee problem, canker sores, depression, etc. And at age 14 very overweight. I started giving him supplements in a nut cup so he never knew what he was taking. Yup, he needed digestive enzymes-big time. Several other things too of course. Within months he was a different kid!

I have had a serious acid reflux problem for many years and under the treatment of gastrointerologist. I suddenly developed severe pain in my ankle. I also researched the Internet on acid reflux. I found Dr. Jonathon Wright's fine book on the problem. He contends that most people are really having a problem with too little acid rather than too much. 90% of those in his practice had too little acid. He tests before diagnosing. In my case I was suffering from a nutritional deficiency and needed to drop the Prontonix, Nexium, Prilosec, and other meds. I am taking a licorice product designed for this; keep organic apples on hand, eliminate certain problem foods, etc. I upped my Vitamin D and am sure I am getting enough calcium citrate. Years without enough acid was leaving me open to other problems.

I went to an E-N-T Dr. complaining of a raspy throat. No pain-just "gravel-y" sounding speech and I could hardly sing anymore. His diagnosis was that I had damage to my vocal cords from Reflux (GERD). I was shocked since I had no complaints of heartburn or anything like that.

Long story short: I have tried 4 different Rx's typically prescribed for reflux and nothing has helped over a 6-year period and 2 different doctors (due to moving to a different state.) I am not anxious to experience a weakening of my bones which all these PPIs can do to the body. Thus, I took myself off of the last RX (after 8 months on it) and started DGL and Apple Cider Vinegar after doing research on line. That was about 8 months ago and I still have no improvement to report.

Again, I don't have heartburn, just the damaged vocal cords. I am not anxious to continue damaging them but am at a loss. I have never run into anyone else with just this one symptom from Reflux. Ideas anyone? Thank you in advance.

I have had GERD for as long as i can remember and I am 67! I found out that the more alkakine your diet the better. Milk will cause more acid not less. I have found Silk Coconut Milk has made a big difference. I LOVE the taste and use in in my cereal and also drink it by itself. Also NOT all generic drugs work! I decided to go back to taking the brand name of Zantac since I can buy it at Costco and their price is excellent. I noticed a difference within 48hrs. I no longer felt like someone was pouring acid in my stomach. It was SO bad I was thinking about surgery!! Now I do not need it.

And if he's overweight and inactive, addressing those two factors will probably help.

At 40, my husband was 50 pounds overweight and considered Tums part of his normal diet. He had indigestion virtually every night.

Changed how he ate, starting exercising, lost the weight and he hasn't needed a Tums in a decade.

After two or three years of taking prescription acid reducers I tried 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar; 1 tablespoon honey and about 1/3 glass of water and VIOLA! I found the cure for heartburn. As a bonus I understand this concoction also works for arthritis - that could be the reason I have not experienced any joint pains at the early age of 72.

You are right about acid reflux it is a problem with the sphincter muscle not closing tight enough. I have the problem since I was a child. I agree that the drug companies will push pills on you but you are right when you say it is not good to suppress all acid. I take Zantac since the PPIs do not agree with me. At least with Zantac it helps control the enzyme that produces the acid instead of trying to stop it.

DPH, by neutralizing the stomach acid you are stopping the natural processes of digestion. Proteins, fats and minerals won't be broken down and metabolized. Poor health and weak bones will result.

Had heartburn for fifty years, took PPI's for four years for Barrett's. Then a new Doc told me "get off those PPI's--they will kill you!" I started drinking apple cider vinegar. Barretts and heartburn eliminated the last fifteen years of my life. Also eliminated many other health issues with natural remedies and supplements provided by God instead of devised by man to enlarge his bank account at our expense. I am now drug free. FORMULA: mix one part apple cider vinegar {I like Bragg's brand} with four parts water. Drink five ounces every morning with breakfast.

Worked for over a year to wean myself off Omeprizol. Suffered with heartburn daily until I found the perfect solution...for me.
1 or 2 TBL. apple cider vinegar with 1/4 tsp baking soda. It will fizz and dissolve the soda. I then add a little water to the mix and drink. Honestly, I feel like it is a miracle! I read about it online, but I don't remember the exact site. I will be forever grateful to the person who posted it. It works very fast, and very well.

I learned from this website about almonds. Chewing a small amount of slivered almonds stops the heartburn within a few seconds.

My husband & I both drink 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a 16 oz glass of water every morning before breakfast. I used to get occasional severe heartburn and he was regularly experiencing heartburn and popping anti-acids every day. We are both free of heartburn for almost a year. Maybe this resets the natural acidic balance of the stomach to aid digestion. No more pills for us.

I am another who has been able to get off Prilosec. I started by taking digestive enzymes with every meal, not over eating (this is a no brainer but I had to think about it), and watching to see what foods caused discomfort.

Now I take an ounce or two of aloe vera juice in the morning and sometimes at night. Works great!

One night I had mild heartburn, I got up out of bed and took an ounce of aloe and drank some water. Went back to bed and the heartburn was gone.

I used to inhabit the low-carb discussion groups on usenet many years ago. It was common for low-carbers to report major improvements in snoring, acne, back-ache and acid reflux; and all of those within about 2 weeks of starting (which includes the back-ache).

I myself have a low-ish carb diet with almost no sugar. And it's sugar that I've noticed causes me to snore, and also for my mouth to hang open if I am sleeping upright. It seems like my muscles loosen for some reason, perhaps under the influence of the by-products of sucrose (ie. perhaps the triglyceride fats that come from the liver's metabolism of fructose; just guessing here). Perhaps that muscle loosening is also happening to the sphincter that is not tightening enough causing acid reflux.

In the meantime I have 'cured' two people with serious acid reflux, one being "the worst case the doctor had ever seen" and the other being her mother. I've also cured two people of significant adult acne and one person of chronic back-ache (which returned soon after ditching the diet).

It's not trivial cutting sugar out as it's stuffed in to a lot of things these days (ie. most un-sweet breakfast cereals have 10-20% sugar built in), but for those who cook their own food it's not so hard. You get used to having yoghurt with sweetener in the morning, and saccharin loses it's bitter after-taste after a couple of weeks. I have had to audit my friends' fridges in the past, when things weren't working out. For example, bizarrely they didn't realise that even natural fruit juice is basically sugar. Honey and most fruit generally has to be consumed as an occasional treat, which isn't such an issue since vit C has been debunked. I make my own ice-cream with sweeteners, and I take carb-holidays when I go to France on my annual french pastry pilgrimages.

It's possible that the people who are "cured" of heartburn by eating low carb may have some degree of gluten intolerance. Test would be whether low-carb pastas make the heartburn return. To get pasta low-carb, the manufacturers increase the amount of gluten in it.

You asked what the side effect of taking a proton pump inhibitor are. When you artificially stop the body from producing HC acid that the stomach requires for complete digestion, some of the nutrients we absolutely need for health are not absorbed from our diet. One of them can not be taken over the counter. That is vit. B-12. My husband's healthy uncle was in his 60's when he began taking one of the "purple pills for GURD.

After 5 years on it he became deathly ill. Many weeks in the hospital before it was discovered that he had no B-12. He gets a shot of B-12 each month but only feels well for the next 4 days. They won't give him the shot any oftener. Medicare won't pay for it any oftener. Now he has to use a cane, has no energy, and is losing his memory.

My over weight Husband had Gastric reflux every night. We put the head of the bed up on blocks, ate a smaller supper and did not eat anything past 7 pm. The night time waking up choking and coughing stopped. After 6 months his esophagus was healed and we removed the blocks. That was 10 years ago. He gets GURD only if he eats late. So sometimes after a late party, he will sleep in the recliner.

He also takes Alka Seltzer if he knows he has overeaten. Any antacid will do. They combine with acid and neutralize it. They don't mess with the body's chemical factory to eliminate a needed part of the digestive process. DP

Cut down your coffee consumption. Don't know if scientific studies back this up, but I have definitely found that drinking 4-5 cups of coffee brings on heartburn. Cut it back to 2 cups maximum, and haven't suffered.

Also, avoid tomatoes, oranges, sugar. Though they're rich in vitamins, tomatoes and oranges have high citric content which can irritate.

Good luck, I know that heartburn can be so debilitating.

I have found that eating 1/2 of a banana a day has helped reduce my heartburn. I grew tired of bananas, I didn't think it was possible, and now I eat dried bananas chips.

Hello Dear
I am happy that you got cured from Barrett's Esophagus. I was diagnosed with Barrett's Esophagus 3 months ago. I have metaplasia, means that the cells are changed.(same thing that you had)I have changed my diet. I was on the PPI meds, but now I've stopped, because of the side effects. When I was on the PPI meds I still had heartburn.Now I take DGL before every meal,I still have heartburn,I also drink Slippery Elm to coat the stomach, but it doesn't help. I don't know what else to do. I am wondering if a strict, healthy diet (no sugar, raw veggies, fruits, no wheat, no dairy products) without the PPI meds, will get rid of the Barrett's Esophagus...
I appreciate your answer
Thank you
Izabela

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