If you experience heartburn frequently, you understand how uncomfortable it can be day to day. There are plenty of factors that can trigger heartburn and other types of indigestion that vary from person to person. Most people get heartburn after eating meals, especially meals that contain spicy foods. You may also experience heartburn after drinking certain beverages or when pregnant. Although these feelings are uncomfortable, there are many natural ways to treat heartburn. But first, what is heartburn, what are the symptoms, and how is it diagnosed?
What is Heartburn?
Heartburn happens when stomach acid creeps up into your esophagus, which causes the burning sensation. Your esophagus connects your throat to your stomach, so when heartburn occurs it feels like a burning in your upper belly or below your breastbone. Despite its name, heartburn actually has nothing to do with the heart, it just feels like the burning sensation is coming from behind your sternum. It can leave a sour or bitter taste in the throat and mouth.
Symptoms of Heartburn
Some symptoms of heartburn are similar to those of heart disease or a heart attack. You feel a burning sensation in your chest and in your throat as well as the following:
- You may feel pain in your chest when you bend over or lie down
- You may have a hot, acidic, bitter, or salty taste in the back of your throat
- You may find it hard to swallow
Sometimes heartburn can last for a couple of minutes, and sometimes it can last for several hours depending on the person.
Causes of Heartburn
One can experience heartburn because of a variety of factors. The muscular valve, called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), is located where the esophagus meets the stomach and is responsible for keeping stomach acid where it should be – in your stomach. If your LES opens too much or does not close tightly enough you will begin to experience heartburn. This is usually caused by too much pressure on your stomach from overeating, obesity, pregnancy, or constipation.
Heartburn is a very common diagnosis, however it can be confused with other chest-related illnesses as the symptoms are very similar. These include:
- Heart attack
- Pulmonary embolism
- Chest wall pain
In order to diagnose heartburn, you will need to visit your doctor to get a complete history and physical examination. In most cases this examination provides enough information for your doctor to make the diagnosis and begin a treatment plan. In certain instances, further testing may be required such as:
X-ray: An e-ray test will help determine if the esophagus muscles are working properly in a rhythmic motion to push the food into the stomach.
Endoscopy: This specific type of test uses a flexible scope with a fiberoptic camera to look at the lining of the esophagus and stomach. Inflammation and ulcers can be identified. Biopsies and small bits of tissue can be obtained to look for cancerous or precancerous cells.
Manometry and pH testing: When conventional therapy is unable to confirm the heartburn diagnosis, or when symptoms are not typical, the use of pressure monitors and acid measurements from within the esophagus may be helpful in making the diagnosis.
Natural Heartburn Remedies
You might head to your local drug store and reach for those over-the-counter antacids and medications, but all too often those don’t seem to provide enough relief. Luckily, you probably already have several natural, home remedies for heartburn right at home in your pantry. These can be even more effective than antacids.
One of the best spices for heartburn in ginger. Ginger helps reduce stomach acid which is helpful because too much stomach acid causes heartburn. Ginger can also reduce inflammation. This may relieve symptoms of acid reflux.Try drinking a cup of ginger tea or even ginger ale to get your fix in.
2, Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has many claimed health benefits and helping indigestion is on that list. Since too little stomach acid can trigger indigestion, drink apple cider vinegar to increase your body’s production of stomach acid.You can mix approximately two teaspoons into a glass of water and add some honey to make the mixture taste better.
3. Peppermint Tea & Oil
Peppermint tea is a great choice for relieving stomach problems like nausea and indigestion because it helps neutralize stomach acidity . Drink a cup of peppermint tea after meals to quickly soothe your stomach or keep a few pieces of peppermint in your pocket.
Additionally, inhaling the essence of peppermint oil may also help ease heartburn, upset stomach, and nausea. Try massaging the oil on your chest, belly, or back because it can help relax the overactive digestive system.
4. Stand Up Straight
This may sound like a simple and straightforward solution, but consider going on a walk or standing after a meal. This simple solution works because it keeps food and acid down in your stomach, not in your esophagus causing the pain. An upright posture puts less pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which helps keep stomach acid from rising into your esophagus.
5. Baking Soda
Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, can neutralize your stomach acid, making it a solid option for helping reduce heartburn and indigestion. Try to dissolve a teaspoon of baking soda in an 8 ounce glass of water and drink it slowly.
If you have heartburn every now and then, it’s probably not that serious. When heartburn hits, you do not necessarily need to panic and head to the doctor right away. Many over-the-counter treatments, home remedies, and lifestyle adjustments may provide relief. If over the counter remedies are not working for you, considering checking in with your doctor to see if a prescription will help with more extreme symptoms and cases.
If you get more than the occasional heartburn, it could be a result of something more serious such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which you should consult your doctor on a recommended treatment plan.