Ouch! For some people it's tomato-based anything. For others it's Mexican or other spicy food. For still more it's totally unpredictable. But heartburn -- also known as acid reflux -- hurts no matter what triggers it for you.
You walk into a restaurant and make an order -- or you spend some quality time working on a brand new recipe. You take those first bites and a big smile spreads across your face. But smiles soon turn to grimaces when heartburn rears its ugly head.
After the pain starts, you might find yourself complaining and asking: "Isn't my body supposed to just take care of things after I eat my dinner? Why me? After all, I eat quality food! What can be done now?"
Complaining doesn't do any good, so don't be a whiner! But, to answer your anguished question -- yes, there are things you can do! And many of them are natural and don't involve expensive pharmaceuticals with undesirable side effects.
Read on to learn about these simple, natural remedies, but first let's review what heartburn actually is.
Your esophagus is the tube inside your body that connects your mouth to your stomach. Normally, chewed food travels downward toward your stomach in rhythmic waves. The esophagus has some fairly sensitive nerve endings to let your brain know if this process is proceeding normally, or if there's a problem -- like something stuck in there.
In your stomach are some pretty powerful acids that are needed to digest your food and make its nutrients available to your body. When you have heartburn, those powerful acids go up into the esophagus, sometimes reaching your throat -- and that can hurt, quite badly.
How to Stop the Pain of Heartburn
Let's review some things that help stop that pain:
1. Aloe vera juice -- available in health food stores and in better-stocked grocery stores too -- can relieve the irritation of heartburn, just as pure aloe vera can do the same for sunburn. And you can be proactive with aloe vera juice, too: People with chronic heartburn report great results from drinking a half cup before every meal.
2. Making some new life choices can have an impact on heartburn, too. People who are overweight are more prone to heartburn (as well as a lot of other ailments), so fixing that problem can have cascading good effects including reducing or eliminating your heartburn problem. Another thing you can do is keep notes on what you've eaten, and using them to determine if you're one of those people whose heartburn in triggered by certain food categories. Spicy foods and foods with lots of fat (and, yes, oil of any kind is a fat!) trigger heartburn in some people and some moderation in these areas is called for if you're one of them. Chocolate, and softdrinks can cause heartburn for some folks too.
3. While we're on the subject of life choices that can help you to avoid heartburn, eating a plant-based diet (vegetarian or vegan) can also be of benefit, according to nutritionist Sharon Palmer.
4. Chewing sugar-free gum can greatly increase your mouth's production of saliva, and that saliva will dilute the rogue stomach acid and start to make you feel better. Chew for half an hour and you should really notice a difference.
5. Stop smoking -- cigarette smoke has been shown to make the pain of acid reflux worse, so here's another reason you should quit.
6. Eat a banana -- what could be easier than that? And they taste good, too. Bananas contain compounds that counteract stomach acid and get you on your way to feeling better faster. Apples can help too, but bananas are your most powerful "fruit weapon" in the battle against heartburn. Eat two!
7. Mix three or four teaspoons of apple cider vinegar into one cup of water, and drink. (It's a powerful taste that not everyone likes, so be prepared!) Not only does this help after the fact, but people who are prone to heartburn often take a cup of this blessed relief before every meal and before going to sleep, with great results. You're welcome.
8. Get yourself a (super cheap) package of baking soda (not baking powder: you are not a doughnut) and mix one teaspoon in a cup of water and drink. (Again, the taste is downright weird, but tolerable.) Baking soda is absolutely natural and is one of the most powerful acid-neutralizers around. (It does contain sodium, so those who need to watch their sodium intake should take that into account.) Like apple cider vinegar, it's not only an after-the-fact remedy -- many swear by the good effects of a cup before every meal and upon arising every morning.
As I raise my personal glass of baking soda solution, here's to a pain-free future for you -- and many more great, enjoyable meals without the scourge of heartburn!