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How to Manage Your Heartburn Without Drugs

Numerous home remedies can help you manage your heartburn. Which one will work best for you? You'll need to try them to find out.

The American diet seems designed to create digestive problems. We love fast food, which is low in fiber and high in processed carbs and fat. We also eat on the run. As a result, many people suffer from indigestion. How do you manage your heartburn?

Medications to Manage Your Heartburn:

Medicines to treat acid reflux or indigestion are extremely popular. Drugs like esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid) and omeprazole (Prilosec) are big sellers. Other acid-suppressing drugs such as cimetidine (Tagamet) and famotidine (Pepcid) are also highly successful. However, all of these medications have some downsides.

Are there other ways to manage your heartburn? Many readers have found simple remedies that help. But what works for one person may be totally ineffective or even harmful for another.

People are different. We share the following approaches with that in mind. You may need to experiment to find something that helps ease your symptoms.

Home Remedies to Manage Your Heartburn:

Should You Try Kefir to Manage Your Heartburn?

Q. I have read your various heartburn remedies and would like to offer something different. I think people would be well served to try drinking kefir for a few weeks to see if this probiotic yogurt-like drink helps them.

I had terrible heartburn 10 years ago and my doctor prescribed Nexium. I had the prescription in my hand when I started reading about how difficult it can be to get off this drug due to a rebound hyperacidity effect.

My husband suggested I try drinking kefir. I started with about 4 ounces every day in the evening or whenever I had symptoms. Now I drink about 2 ounces every night before bed. My heartburn went away. Why not try this remedy before resorting to powerful acid-suppressing PPI drugs?

A. Thanks for sharing your novel remedy for heartburn. We searched the medical literature and couldn’t find any research on kefir for indigestion. This fermented dairy drink is high in probiotics or beneficial bacteria.

There is growing interest, however, in the use of probiotics for “functional dyspepsia” (FD). That’s doctor talk for an upset stomach or indigestion with no obvious cause. A review of probiotics for this condition acknowledges a lack of scientific evidence (Microorganisms, Jan. 31, 2023).  Nevertheless, the authors suggest that probiotics could well provide a novel therapeutic approach to treating FD, so they call for more research.

How About Water with Vinegar?

One reader reports:

“I have great success with a few slices of apple or a tablespoon of vinegar in 16 oz. of water.”

Another takes a slightly different tack:

“This is hard to believe, but I totally stopped my heartburn by drinking a cup of warm water or two until the pain was gone. I have also stopped eating dinner late. Instead, I now eat at 5 pm and leave a five-hour time slot before I go to bed.”

Another agrees:

“When I get heartburn I have a mug of hot water with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. I sip it slowly over about 10 minutes and it fixes the problem.”

We are not quite sure why the water needs to be warm, but that seems to make a difference for these folks.

Carbonated Drinks to Manage Your Heartburn:

Many readers find that carbonated beverages of one sort or another can help ease heartburn.

One person wrote:

“I take a couple of swallows of 7 Up to make me burp.”

Another recalled:

“My grandfather from Italy used Brioschi. I haven’t seen it recently, but I take 6 oz of water with one or two ounces of vinegar. Then I stir in 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and watch it foam. I drink it while it is still bubbling, and it works, just like the crystals of Brioschi.”

Brioschi is still available. The main ingredient, along with flavoring and sweeteners, is baking soda. Other readers just use plain baking soda, as it is more economical. It is a time-honored indigestion remedy, but it should be used judiciously. Sodium bicarbonate is high in sodium that could raise blood pressure.

We got this comment from a reader who likes the effect but not the flavor of baking soda:

“Baking soda in water has worked wonders for me at times, but it tastes so bad it’s also enough to make you puke! I recall making clay volcanoes for art class in school. We used a mixture of vinegar and baking soda to create a very effective ‘volcanic eruption.’ Makes you think twice about mixing those in your stomach, huh?”

Using Baking Soda to Manage Your Heartburn:

Q. I have stomach issues for which I’ve taken Protonix for years. I remember my mom used to make herself baking soda water to drink when she was having heartburn. What do you think about that treatment? Sodium bicarbonate really does work, but I know it’s a lot of salt.

A. One brand of baking soda (Arm & Hammer) recommends dissolving ½ teaspoon in four fluid ounces of water for indigestion or upset stomach. Though it doesn’t actually contain salt, it does have 600 mg of sodium. As a result, you would not want to use it on a regular basis. It is effective and inexpensive as an occasional remedy, however.

Almonds to Help You Manage Your Heartburn:

Still other readers find relief with a more natural approach:

“Five raw almonds fix the heartburn for me.”

Another agrees:

“Almonds – that is all I ever need. I learned about it from you folks. About 4 to 6 raw almonds. I carry a small jar of them in my car.”

And a third concurs:

“Almonds work for me too. Just a few are all that’s needed. So simple, and good for you, too.”

When to See the Doctor:

Frequent heartburn could signal something more serious, so it requires medical attention. If you are using OTC medicines or home remedies to manage your heartburn more than a few times a week, you should check with your doctor. If the diagnosis is simple acid reflux, however, you may be able to use home remedies to get relief.

Learn More:

To learn more about a variety of other remedies for indigestion, you may wish to read our Guide to Digestive Disorders. It offers information about prescription and over-the-counter medications as well as numerous home remedies.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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  • Tziatzios G et al, "Probiotics in functional dyspepsia." Microorganisms, Jan. 31, 2023. DOI: 10.3390/microorganisms11020351
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