At some point in life, everyone experiences the digestive distress called heartburn. Also known as acid reflux, heartburn is a burning sensation in the lower chest, just under the breastbone. It’s normally triggered when stomach acid seeps back up into the esophagus after meals, irritating the lining and causing the tight, painful sensation. If you experience serious and reoccurring heartburn that interferes with your life and well-being, you should see a doctor, as it may be caused by a more serious illness, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease. But occasional heartburn, the result of overindulging in unhealthy, fatty or spicy foods, or hormonal changes, can be annoying, and painful. You don’t have to suffer in silence or turn to over the counter prescriptions; there are several natural ways to prevent and soothe heartburn, mostly starting with eating healthy and learning to remedy it once the damage is done.
An Ounce of Prevention
When it comes to acid reflux, the best method of treatment is prevention through a healthy, alkaline diet. Avoid well known triggers, such as spicy foods, greasy, fatty foods, and caffeinated, carbonated or alcoholic beverages if you are prone to heartburn. Additionally, heartburn can be triggered by mild food allergies, or even overeating. Monitoring your own reactions to the foods you eat can help you assess food sensitivities. In addition to a healthy diet, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can greatly decrease a tendency toward heartburn.
When the Damage is Done
But sometimes heartburn can be due to hormonal changes like puberty and pregnancy, or stress. And let’s face it, even the most mindful, health conscious eaters still overindulge from time to time. Thankfully, there are several natural ways to ease the symptoms of heartburn that are safer and cheaper than over-the-counter medications:
An ancient remedy for all sorts of tummy troubles, ginger is anti-inflammatory, which can neutralize the burning and bring relief. It’s a fantastic remedy for morning sickness during pregnancy, which is often accompanied by heartburn. For best results, use raw, but dried and powdered ginger work also, or you can even chew on crystallized ginger, or steep it into a tea. Here are some great ginger based recipes to soothe your tummy.
Fennel is great for neutralizing acid and can help with digestion as well. With it’s high water content and pH of 6.9, it’s a fantastic remedy for heartburn. Snack on it raw, blend it into smoothies or incorporate it’s unique flavor into these delicious dishes.
It turns out there is a reason your restaurant entree comes with a decorative spring of parsley on the side. Parsley has long been praised for it’s tummy soothing (and breath freshening) abilities, and it’s position on your plate is a deliberate courtesy to help you smoothly digest your fancy meal out. Why not move parsley off the side of the plate and add more parsley to your meals at home? Try this delicious Not Too Sweet Parsley and Pear Smoothie.
Celery (or Chewing Gum)
While many chewing gums are full of empty calories, gelatin, sugars and chemicals, their effect is to stimulate saliva production, which can help flush out overabundant acid in the esophagus. A healthier choice with the same effect (and the added benefits of fiber, water, low calorie content and breath freshening) would be to munch on celery instead.
Baking soda is a base, so consuming a little when your tummy is extra acidic can minimize irritation. The standard recipe is 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per 8 ounces of water, however, the high salt content of sodium bicarbonate can cause swelling and nausea, so use sparingly.
Most people know of aloe’s soothing properties when it comes to burns and cuts on the skin, but it turns out that aloe can also work internally to soothe irritation and inflammation in the esophagus. Fresh from the plant is best, but if you don’t have or can’t find one, the juice is also effective. Note that aloe can also be a laxative, so be mindful when taking it. Aloe has a very strong, distinct and not entirely pleasant taste, but if you can stomach it, eat it straight out of the leaf for the best effects. However, to minimize the bitterness, the taste of aloe can easily be masked when whirred into your favorite smoothie.
Pet owners may have noticed their dog or cat nibbling grass when he or she isn’t feeling well. Animals seem to instinctually know the soothing power of greens on the digestive track. When your stomach is feeling a little angry, a crisp, cool raw salad (light on the fatty, oily dressing) can do wonders. Here are some amazing salad recipes and natural salad dressings that will give your tummy green power!
Other healthy foods to eat on a regular basis that help with heartburn include whole grains, all herbs, vegetables, root vegetables, pineapple, papaya, apples, bananas, lemons, and most other fruits. Remember to eat in plenty of time before bed since eating late or lying down shortly after can interfere with digestion and cause acid reflux leading to heartburn (and poor sleep). Lastly, be sure to avoid acidic foods or fatty foods such as: dairy, meat, eggs, processed foods, alcohol, chocolate, tomatoes, and wine.
Give these tips a try and let us know if they work for you!
Lead Image Source: Joanna Slodownick/Flickr