Q: I’ve been taking over-the-counter meds for my heartburn for years now, and I’d really like to phase them out of my routine. Got any ideas for natural heartburn remedies that actually work?
A: Definitely. And I feel your pain. Anyone who’s experienced heartburn knows that it can make you feel like you’re dying (well, maybe only if you’re a hypochondriac like me). But that burning sensation that creeps up from your stomach all the way to your throat that makes you feel like your insides are on fire? Definitely not fun. So is there a natural way to rid yourself of the pain?
Yes, though you may need to try a few before you find the one that works for you.
First of all, consult a doctor to make sure your heartburn isn't a symptom of something more serious.
That said, for certain people, heartburn is triggered by specific foods. Try keeping a food log of everything you eat and when your symptoms are at their worst. It could be that your heartburn is caused by common food triggers like citrus fruits or spicy foods and all it takes to curb them is practicing a little avoidance.
Next, try to stay upright for at least an hour (or two or three) after eating. That means no late-night chomping on cheese fries, unless you plan to stay up and watch "Conan" afterward. Lying down can actually make the heartburn worse. This works for babies who spit up a lot, by the way. After my baby has her bottle, she goes in the bouncer for at least 20 minutes. Lying down right after she eats inevitably produces loads of spit-up. She actually was diagnosed with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), which you could have if you’re having bouts with heartburn a few times a week and are popping antacids like candy. Be sure to check with your doctor.
Also, if you eat smaller, more frequent meals and eat those meals slowly, it can help your heartburn. I often experience the worst heartburn after I’ve scarfed down a pot of macaroni and cheese in 10 minutes flat (sometimes pregnancy cravings get the best of me — oh wait ... I’m not pregnant).
Now, what if you’ve tried all this and still aren’t getting relief?
Some people swear by aloe vera juice, which doesn’t have any roots in scientific evidence (though not many home remedies do) but does have a long history of use in Europe as a natural remedy to soothe heartburn. Just take 1/4 cup of aloe vera juice 20 minutes before you eat a meal.
Another natural home remedy? Licorice is also said to help relieve the symptoms of heartburn. Not the kind that comes in the candy aisle, though. Chewable DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) is a form of the herb licorice that has the glycyrrhizin removed because it is associated with high blood pressure and water retention. You can find it in most health food stores and sometimes even in the vitamin aisle of your grocery store.
Finally — two oldies but goodies — ginger and chamomile (no, not the characters from “Gilligan’s Island”), two super herbs that provide a host of benefits. Ginger is often used to treat nausea but may be effective in treating heartburn as well. Chamomile may help your heartburn, but is most often used for some good ol’ fashioned stress relief. And we could all use a little stress relief, don’t you think? As a matter of fact, I think I’ll go make myself a cup right now.