Heartburn Remedies

Heartburn, also known as acid reflux (or GERD when it becomes chronic) is one of the most common yet uncomfortable health problems in modern times. Below, I have revealed two powerful home heartburn remedies which are not only effective but are also well-supported by peer-reviewed research.

There is no smoke and mirrors here: only simple, practical home heartburn remedies which are well-supported by research and founded on basic principles of human physiology. Below, you will find our top 2 acid reflux remedies as well as a list of articles with the inside scoop on other popular remedies.

We are digging into the research on acid reflux on a daily basis, so be sure to check this page regularly for new remedies and other helpful tips and hints for beating acid reflux!


Chewing Gum – The #1 Natural Heartburn Remedy

Chewing gum is one of the most powerful home heartburn remedies. The best thing about this remedy is that it is very convenient and can be done anywhere and any time.

You may be wondering how or why this works, and I do not blame you. I would not take anything at face value either without research to back it up.

Prolonged gum chewing, all digestive effects aside, acts as a nociceptive suppressant (1). Nociceptors are the neural receptors which tell your brain when it is experiencing all types of pain or noxious stimuli, including the burning sensation of heartburn. Chewing gum suppresses these nerves and lowers the amount of pain you experience (1).

The most important thing that chewing gum does is cause the release of saliva. One of the hallmarks of GERD is reduced saliva production (2), which is why chewing gum is one of the most powerful home heartburn remedies.

Chewing gum also increases the pH of saliva which is another reason why it is one of the best heartburn remedies (3). Chewing gum also increases pharyngeal and esophageal pH, providing a buffer against stomach acid (4).

Chewing aids digestion. It is well-known that the act of chewing stimulate brain areas which then go on to active digestive processes in the stomach and small intestine. By chewing gum, you are actually encouraging digestion to take place, which can reduce heartburn.

As evidence of this, a recent study found that about 75% of participants with chronic heartburn (GERD) ate quickly and did not chew enough (5). Only 15% of participants in the control group were deemed to have inadequate mastication (5). While smaller food particle size is likely to reduce heartburn occurrences, the lack of chemical signals due to not enough chewing also is likely to play a role. By chewing gum you can stimulate these chemical processes after you have already eaten.


The best part about chewing gum is that researchers have found that prolonged chewing does not effect saliva production rates after gum has stopped (6). In other words, chewing gum helps you produce a lot of extra saliva which can help with digestion, but you do not become reliant on gum for saliva production.

As a bonus side effect, having good masticatory function (mastication is the scientific word for chewing) is associated with good memory and sharp cognitive function (7). Chewing gum regularly actually can help keep your brain sharp in old age!

One thing to note: mint can increase the production of stomach acid and potentially lower Lower Esophageal Sphincter pressure (low Lower Esophageal Sphincter pressure causes heartburn). Avoid mint flavored gums and instead stick to mild fruit flavors.


Vinegar – Another Great Acid Reflux Remedy

Out of all the heartburn remedies, vinegar struck me as the most unusual. After all, vinegar’s primary ingredient is acetic acid and it does not seem logical that adding extra acid would somehow make the list of top heartburn remedies.

Despite the rave reviews I had read about vinegar, finding research to support this belief was tough. However, I could not ignore all the anecdotal evidence of the throngs of people swearing by vinegar as one of their favorite heartburn remedies.

I finally managed to stumble across one study which finally shed some light on why vinegar is an effective heartburn remedy. This study involved having acids (including acetic acid, the primary ingredient of vinegar) placed at various points along the esophagus and throat. Researches found that this stimulated the salivary glands (2).

More interestingly, it turns out that the the higher the acid is placed on the throat, the stronger the salivary glands were stimulated (2). It is theorized that this occurs because the higher the acid reaches on the esophagus, the larger the heartburn swell, and the stronger the body’s response to try to quell this heartburn. It turns out the body actually has its own defense system against heartburn.

Drinking vinegar would actually place an acid (acetic acid) at the highest possible point, thereby tricking the body into thinking there was a large acid swell. This in turn results in a massive burst in salivary production and digestive activity, quelling many heartburn issues on the spot.

Naturally, you will have to decide whether or not this is for you. Some people report relief from this while others have reported discomfort by adding vinegar. If it does not seem to benefit you in any way, you will have to take another approach.

This is not something that provides compounding benefits. If vinegar is going to work for you as a heartburn home remedy, it will work on the first time you take it. If it does not help you (and it doesn’t help everyone), you do not need to keep trying it. Just stop and stick to chewing gum or try some of the other acid reflux remedies on the list below.

With that said, there is one thing related to the use of vinegar as an acid reflux remedy that you have to consider: its safety. Vinegar has been used as a treatment in recent years as a treatment for diabetes as vinegar seems to improve the function of insulin. As a result, people who are taking medication for diabetes (both types 1 and 2) should consult a doctor before using vinegar as this may alter the way your medication works and be potentially dangerous.

Heartburn Remedies

Chewing gum stimulates the flow of saliva, which can help soothe the esophagus and quell heartburn.

For otherwise healthy individuals, I still would not consider vinegar a long-term solution for acid reflux. Right now I think the long-term effects are not well-enough understood to recommend using large amounts of vinegar daily for a prolonged period of time. Researchers looking at the effect of long-term vinegar usage reported that after 12 weeks of vinegar usage on a daily basis, there seems to alter our metabolic pathways slightly in ways that are not yet understood (8).

So why include vinegar at all? For some people, vinegar seems to nothing short of a miracle and is a great home acid reflux remedy for occasional heartburn. However, even if you do get relief from vinegar, it is not something you should take every day.


Other Heartburn Remedies

While chewing gum and vinegar are our top two heartburn remedies, we have also read the research and evaluated the effectiveness of many other proposed acid reflux remedies. Below you will find our findings on each remedy, and you can read full articles on reach remedy by using the links below:

Antacids (Calcium Carbonate) – Effective for occasional use, negative side effects make antacids something you want to avoid using regularly over the long-term.

Apple Cider Vinegar and Heartburn – Apple Cider Vinegar does work, but it offers no special benefit over plain (and less expensive) vinegar for heartburn. The acetic acid in vinegar is what relieves heartburn, and acetic acid is the primary ingredient in all vinegar. Vinegar is one of the best heartburn remedies, no matter what the type.

Baking Soda – Baking soda was replaced by calcium carbonate in over the counter antacids for a reason – too many side effects, especially when consumed regularly. Baking soda is for toothpaste, not for drinking on a daily basis. Baking Soda is also one of the more popular home remedies for acne when applied directly to the skin rather than consumed.

Bed Wedge Pillows – Bed wedge pillows are pillows specially designed to reduce acid reflux when sleeping. While they can be effective, we suspect they may lead to spinal trouble after years of use. It is much simpler and cheaper to just elevate your bed than it is to buy a pillow. These pillows do come in handy however when traveling.

Celery and Heartburn – Celery may reduce heartburn simply because it requires a lot of chewing to eat; chewing produces saliva, and saliva is the best heartburn remedy around.

Ionized Alkaline Water – Alkaline water works much in the way that antacids do and may neutralize stomach acid. The problem is neutralizing stomach acid negatively impacts digestion which may lead to more reflux down the road and other digestive problems.

Iodine Supplements – Switching back from your fancy sea salt or adding an iodine supplement to your diet may improve your heartburn over time. This is because there is a strong link between hypothyroidism and acid reflux, and many people in western nations do not get enough iodine in their diets. Iodine is essential for thyroid function.

Milk and Heartburn – Milk acts as a buffer solution and can help neutralize stomach acid, but as mentioned throughout this site neutralization of stomach acid impedes digestion rather than enhances it. Milk also may increase acid reflux in those who are lactose intolerant or allergic to milk proteins.

Mustard and Acid Reflux – Mustard does work for heartburn simply because it contains vinegar. We approve of this home heartburn remedy, and it is especially useful if you can work it into your cooking.

Probiotics and GERD – Probiotics decrease acid reflux in some populations and actually increase it in others. Find out why in this article.

Fennel Seed Oil – Fennel seed is a popular heartburn remedy; while no direct research exists, the indirect evidence shows that this very inexpensive supplement may be a great way to improve digestion and stop acid reflux!

Protein Shakes for Heartburn in the Morning – Mixing up a high-quality protein powder with as little water as necessary is an excellent way to stop morning reflux. While most people get reflux at night, this is a great heartburn remedy for people who get most of their reflux in the morning hours.

Pineapple Benefits – Pineapple contains high concentrations of an enzyme known as bromelain. Bromelain is thought to aid protein digestion and reduce inflammation, which might in turn improve digestion and reduce acid reflux.


Home Heartburn Remedies – Your Plan

If you have been experiencing chronic heartburn, you can try out these heartburn remedies to help stop your heartburn. You can also use these heartburn remedies ahead of time – no need to wait for heartburn to occur. Right now, gum seems to be the safest bet for daily use, whereas the other heartburn remedies may be useful depending on your own individual situation. The extra saliva and pH buffer from gum can help even the most serious cases of heart burn!


References

1. Kamiya, K., et al. Prolonged gum chewing evokes activation of the ventral part of prefrontal cortex and suppression of nociceptive responses: involvement of the serotonergic system. J Med Dent Sci. 2010 Mar;57(1):35-43.

2. Dutta SK, Agrawal K, Mahmoud MA. Modulation of salivation and heartburn in response to the site of acid infusion in the human oesophagus. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2010 Sep;32(6):795-800.

3. Polland KE, Higgins F, Orchardson R. Salivary flow rate and pH during prolonged gum chewing in humans. J Oral Rehabil. 2003 Sep;30(9):861-5.

4. Smoak, B.R. & Koufman, J.A. Effects of gum chewing on pharyngeal and esophageal pH. Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2001 Dec;110(12):1117-9.

5. Luki M., et al. The role of the nutrition in the pathogenesis of gastroesophageal reflux disease, Barrett’ oesophagus and oesophageal adenocarcinoma. Coll Antropol. 2010 Sep;34(3):905-9.

6. Dawes, C. The unstimulated salivary flow rate after prolonged gum chewing. Arch Oral Biol. 2005 Jun;50(6):561-3.

7. Kubo, KY., et al. Masticatory function and cognitive function. Okajimas Folia Anat Jpn. 2010 Nov;87(3):135-40.

8. Johnston CS, White AM, Kent SM. A preliminary evaluation of the safety and tolerance of medicinally ingested vinegar in individuals with type 2 diabetes. J Med Food. 2008 Mar;11(1):179-83.