Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Angelica L Dumapit

Heartburn Relief: Natural Remedies to Soothe Your Burning Chest

Heartburn relief comes in many forms. In this article, you'll learn what causes heartburn, how to soothe it, and what to do to prevent it from happening again.

Heartburn feature min 1 scaled

Heartburn relief may come on its own, but this is not always the case. Additionally, heartburn can lead to more serious complications if left untreated.

There are several things you can do at home to soothe your symptoms. If you’re prone to heartburn, you may want to keep some natural remedies on hand.

This article discusses the best practices for heartburn relief, including how to treat it naturally using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and other natural approaches.

What Is Heartburn?

Heartburn refers to a burning sensation in the chest that may get worse when you lay down. It’s often a symptom of another condition, mainly GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), acid reflux, or pregnancy.

Normally, a valve located at the bottom of the esophagus called the esophageal sphincter prevents stomach acid from moving back up the esophagus.

Heartburn occurs when the valve does not close properly, allowing stomach acid to move back up into the esophagus. This condition is called acid reflux.

Heartburn Symptoms

You may be experiencing heartburn if you notice an acidic, salty, or sour taste in your mouth.

Heartburn is most commonly described as a burning sensation in the chest. It can also occur in the neck and throat.

Here are some other symptoms of heartburn:

  • Burning or pain in the chest behind the backbone that lasts for a few minutes to a few hours
  • Chest pain that worsens when you lay down or bend over (due to stomach acid moving up the esophagus)
  • A burning feeling in your throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A sour, acidic, or salty taste in your mouth
  • Other digestive symptoms, such as abdominal bloating, gas, diarrhea, or pain

What Causes Heartburn?

Research shows that approximately 30 percent of the United States population is affected by heartburn.

Heartburn is typically a symptom of GERD and acid reflux. It’s also common during pregnancy when an unborn baby pushes against the mother’s digestive organs, causing stomach acid to rise.

A hiatal hernia may also cause heartburn. This occurs when the stomach presses up against the chest. Heartburn may also be a side effect of certain medications.

Other possible causes of heartburn include being overweight, wearing clothes that are too tight, smoking, and high cortisol levels. Genetics may play a role, too.

Heartburn Causes, According to TCM

From a TCM perspective, acid reflux is caused by an ascending stomach Qi, which is a result of an imbalance in the stomach and sometimes, the liver system.

Heartburn may be caused by gastric blockage and lack of nourishment of the stomach. It is a common condition that is closely related to the liver, spleen, and stomach.

The main causes of gastric are external cold pathogens, irregular diet, emotional imbalance, weak spleen and stomach, overworking, etc.

TCM treatments place focus on regulating Qi, relieving heartburn, and promoting the flow of Qi in the stomach.

What Foods Cause Heartburn?

Certain dietary factors may increase the risk of heartburn. This includes overeating large portions of food, eating acidic foods, and eating too close to bedtime.

The following foods may cause heartburn:

  • Tomatoes and tomato products
  • High-fat or fried foods (like fast food)
  • Alcohol
  • Juice and fruit juices
  • Caffeinated or carbonated beverages

According to TCM, treats that are not easily digestible, such as rice cakes are made with glutinous rice flour, can cause indigestion.

The spleen and stomach will be blocked, and symptoms such as bloating, belching and loss of appetite will surface.

Fried and baked snacks such as cookies are relatively dry and heaty, which can easily cause the body to be inflamed, leading to dampness in the intestines, weakening gastrointestinal motility, and constipation.

People who overeat can experience acid reflux and a burning sensation in the chest, which is commonly known as ‘heartburn.’

Heartburn Relief: Western Medicine

Most cases of occasional heartburn can be treated at home using over-the-counter medications. Antacids and acid blockers are the most common.

Antacids work by reducing stomach acid to reduce the burning sensation in your chest. You can also use antacids for an upset stomach, gas, bloating, and pain.

Most antacids can be purchased without a prescription at your local pharmacy. However, side effects may include constipation, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

If these medications do not work for you, then your doctor may prescribe a prescription strength acid blocker or a proton pump inhibitor.

Heartburn Relief: TCM

Limiting your intake of coffee and tea can help reduce heartburn symptoms.

Heartburn relief is achievable through various Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practices, including herbal remedies and acupuncture.

Acupuncture

According to one study, acupuncture effectively inhibits the intraesophageal acid and bile reflux in GERD patients to alleviate ‘ symptoms. The study authors also found that acupuncture was safe to use and well accepted by patients. If you wish to try acupuncture as a complementary treatment, be sure to make an appointment with a professional and certified physician.

Herbal Remedies

There are many Chinese herbal supplements available that can help reduce stomach acid and thus the symptoms of heartburn.

Consuming red yeast rice after meals helps strengthen the stomach and spleen to improve digestion, invigorate the blood, and reduce blood stasis.

Natto, a fermented soybean that is high in fiber and probiotics, may also reduce indigestion.

Dandelion may also relieve heartburn as it expels heat and toxins, relieves inflammation and swelling, and protects the gastric mucous.

Heartburn Relief: Prevention Tips

According to the Nurses Health Study, one of the longest-running women’s health studies, there are five diet and lifestyle changes that reduce GERD and heartburn.

They are:

  • Maintain a normal body weight and body mass index (BMI) of <18.5 (women) and >25 (men)
  • Don’t smoke
  • Perform moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 30 minutes per day
  • Do not drink more than two cups of coffee, tea, or soda per day
  • Eat a prudent diet (higher intakes of fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, poultry, and whole grains)

Other tips include:

  • Reduce your intake of red and processed meats, sweets and desserts, french fries, and refined grains
  • Eat smaller portions
  • Do not eat too close to bedtime
  • Avoid laying down after meals
  • Wear loose fitting clothes
  • Eat slowly
  • Wait two hours after a meal before exercising
  • Avoid alcohol and excessive foods
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day

Seeking medical help from your doctor or a TCM practitioner is advisable if your heartburn symptoms do not go away on their own.

References

  1. Cleveland Clinic. 2020. Heartburn. [Accessed 28 January 2022]
  2. National Library of Medicine. 2018. Burden and Cost of Gastrointestinal, Liver, and Pancreatic Diseases in the United States: Update 2018. [Accessed 28 January 2022]
  3. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2021. Association of Diet and Lifestyle With the Risk of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Symptoms in US Women. [Accessed 28 January 2022]
  4. National Library of Medicine. 2010. Clinical study on the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux by acupuncture. [Accessed 28 January 2022]

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