Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
17 Sep

How to Stop Heart Burn Naturally

jabbaHeart burn is a bit of an umbrella term we use informally. We’ve probably all experienced the isolated case of heart burn or indigestion, but if you’re dealing with chronic discomfort, it’s time to take a look at your diet and lifestyle. Also be aware that heart burn and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) are not the same thing, although prime time drug commercials would love to convince you otherwise. (GERD is – in my opinion – essentially an invented condition, though technically it’s a combination of chronic heart burn and acid reflux. I would argue that in the majority of cases, lifestyle is to blame. I’m just not aware of any genetic component behind heart burn, acid reflux, and “GERD”. Nevertheless, it’s serious – let it get out of control and you risk major esophageal damage, even cancer.)

The lifestyle changes required to address chronic heart burn are so simple. Once again, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. There’s just no reason to suffer the discomfort of heart burn – let alone be taking antacids or other drugs to combat it. Of course, for advanced cases of acid reflux or full-blown GERD, natural preventive measures probably aren’t going to cure the problem, though they will certainly help to mitigate the symptoms.

Here are a few quick tips. It’s easy, I promise:

1. Cut out the alcohol.

Stop drinking, or at least reduce the amount of intake. Cutting back on drinking is a very simple, effective way to reduce acid (and the burping). If you’re drinking more than a glass or two of wine, it’s too much. Cut back, especially late at night, and you’ll feel better. You’ll also likely sleep better, as alcohol can interfere with sleep patterns. I like to have a beer or a glass of wine with dinner, but I limit myself.

2. Stop eating fried junk.

I hate to be so blunt (O.K., not really) but you don’t need to be letting fried food get anywhere near your mouth. I know, we all love the calamari appetizer and kids love the chicken nuggets. Everything from crab to shrimp to chicken to vegetables comes fried, and sure, these things are tasty and indulgent (I guess…I think you can quickly retrain your tastes for healthier fare). But breaded, deep-fried food – aside from being a nutritional enemy of mine because of the free radicals – is garbage food. It irritates the digestive tract and is the quickest way to get heart burn. Limit the grease and stick with clean, smart fats that are not refined or fried. Think olive oil, organic butter in small amounts, flax seed oil, and the like. Bake, grill, broil, pan “fry” in a smart fat like olive oil, and avoid the breading and deep frying.

3. Reduce drug intake.

I’m talking about legal drugs here that nevertheless irritate the esophagus and digestive tract. Coffee, prescription drugs, painkillers, energy drinks, sodas – these things are “drugs”, technically. Try to eliminate them to the extent you can. I do like a big cup (or two) of coffee in the morning, but I avoid painkillers – especially aspirin – at all costs and I don’t drink soda.

4. Lose weight.

This is a sure way to reduce the problem permanently. Eliminate junk food, refined carbohydrates like pasta and bread and pastries, and soda. Next, work to reduce your portions. One easy way to do this is to eat only half your entree when dining out. At home, use smaller plates and bowls (toss those massive pasta bowls or store them away for company). Make sure most of your plate is taken up by vegetables. Don’t eat out of habit – eat when you are hungry, and stop before you are full. Even 5 pounds will help, and if you follow these tips, you can do that in about two weeks.

5. Know your body and adjust accordingly.

Some foods are just more irritating than others, and some of us are more sensitive than others. Avoid spicy foods and acidic vegetables and fruits like tomatoes if you are particularly sensitive. Don’t eat large, heavy meals, especially late at night. Beyond that, avoid pro-inflammatory foods (e.g. processed and refined junk food). Peppers are healthy for you and have cancer-fighting properties, so don’t limit them unless you have to. I recommend getting plenty of healthy fats, fresh produce, and lean protein as the base of your diet. If 90% of what you eat is fresh, whole and unprocessed, your heart burn problem may simply take care of itself. Sugars, chemicals, refined grains, and Frankenfats are the fast route to aggravating heart burn – or worse, a lifestyle condition like GERD.

Further Reading:

Best Brain Foods

16 Ultimate Power Foods

My Carb Pyramid

What I Eat in a Day

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Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Is that the fried macaroni and cheese ball I see? Because I would happily burn my heart into a slickened, sickened, blackened smudge on those things. Oh yeah, give me death, but give me gooey appetizer bliss. Eat that.

    McFly wrote on September 17th, 2007
  2. Other possibilites for heartburn: The only time I’ve experienced heartburn is during pregnancy. Hormones that soften up the cervix for delivery also weaken the pyloric sphincter causing heartburn. Tissue on the roof of your mouth is the same tissue as well and could soften up too…..I know y’all wanted to know that.

    People with hypothyroidism tend to have low stomach acid leading to heartburn, gerd, malabsorption, constipation etc.

    Heart burn meds. to reduce stomach acid makes things worse, of course.

    Crystal wrote on September 17th, 2007
  3. Take ACV before a meal. Many times GERD is not the excess of acid but lack there of (usually accompanied by bad eating habbits). Try mixing 2-3 teaspoons with 8-12oz of water right before a meal…I’ve seen many people get off meds once they realize the real issue.

    Mike OD wrote on September 17th, 2007
  4. Very good article!!

    I would like to point out that GERD is not a made-up disease, but it is diagnosed much more than it should be. I’ve had problems since I was in my 20s.

    Also, reflux is something that is highly individual and often weird. If fruit and veggies bother you, try cooking them. White pepper often doesn’t cause problems like black pepper does….no one knows why. Lying down after eating is not good….stay at least semi-upright for several hours after eating.

    Calcium (Tums, dairy) can often aggravate reflux, as can foods like saltines as they are concentrated carbs. “Concentrated sweets” is usually one food type that is often cautioned against….but it should be concentrated carbs. Be sure to get checked for h.pylori too (the little buggers love carbs). Dr Westman of Duke found a distinct reduction of symptoms in patients in a study he did on low carb diets….and the symptoms returned when the diet was stopped.

    Cindy Moore wrote on September 18th, 2007
  5. Another cause for heartburn – stress/anxiety.

    Craig wrote on September 18th, 2007
  6. Anyone who still has some trouble after following all of the above advice might also want to try drinking a cup of ginger tea with/after meals.

    Pink wrote on September 18th, 2007
  7. Great advice, Pink! Crystal, I hear you on the stress/anxiety. Important to practice breathing. Remember to do those side stretches I wrote about a few weeks back (aka yoga lite).

    Sara wrote on September 18th, 2007
  8. Sara, I don’t have any stress. “wink” I think you meant Craig.

    Crystal wrote on September 18th, 2007
  9. Don’t forget probiotics too :-)

    Dave wrote on September 19th, 2007
  10. My husband uses natural vinegar in a litle water. Does the trick!

    Cynthia wrote on September 20th, 2007
  11. sorry i am new to this. What is ACV?

    Amber wrote on July 7th, 2008
  12. Apple Cider Vinegar.

    I just tried some after having a bout after this big grilled meal I had.

    Seems to work pretty decent.

    Chief wrote on April 21st, 2010
  13. I started a low-carb/paleo diet a few weeks ago and I started experiencing heartburns. I was very scared (never had them in my whole life). It was difficult to know the cause since I changed a lot of stuff in my eating habits. I had never before consumed so much meat, or vegetables, or fruits. I think the possible causes were:

    1 – Eating too fast/overeating. I used to eating refined carbs and eliminating them really quick. I was eating more real food now at the same speed/quantity I was used to. Apparently that wasn’t very wise.
    2 – Crazy vegetable easting. One day I ate a whole plate of bell pepper, red and green (with meat of course). We gotta remember that just because something is a green vegetable it doesn’t mean we can overeat it freely. That wasn’t wise either.
    3 – I used to eat and lay down. Bad idea.
    4 – I wasn’t very active.
    5 – I didn’t get enough fiber from foods.

    Please I’d like to hear more thoughts on this. I’m trying to eat very little and slowly while I recover, and It seems to be working, but I’m not 100% yet and I wanna stop worrying about it.

    Thank you! Ugha bugha to you all!

    Bernardo wrote on June 22nd, 2011
    • In my pre-paleo days, I’d get heartburn eating anything if I ate too much at once or waited too long between meals. And then there were foods that made it much worse.

      The first month of paleo, I had problems with it but they’ve disappeared.

      I think heartburn is related to the pH of your stomach. Water with lemon in it helps (after meals), as does apple cider vinegar diluted with water (before meals). Eating your vegetables before your meat can help too. There are charts showing the acid/alkaline effects of foods. Maybe finding the right balance of that will help too.
      http://www.balance-ph-diet.com/acid_alkaline_food_chart.html

      April wrote on June 22nd, 2011
  14. I don’t get heartburn from what I eat, instead I get it when I go too long between meals. Has anyone else ever had this problem?

    Danielle wrote on September 7th, 2011
  15. Sadly, chronic heartburn is an actual, non-invented condition. From the age of 6 (now 25), I’ve had to take medicine daily due to chronic reflux. Lifestyle choices can definitely make it worse – eating fried foods, spicy items, etc. – but even if I eat perfectly, the heartburn occurs without medicine, and it stops me in my tracks when it occurs. I have tried numerous times to do away with the medicine, but even doctors have admitted it likely will never happen. Much to my disappointment, chronic reflux may not be able to be cured even by primal practices. However, as the article says – if you don’t have a chronic condition, following the rules above will most likely cure the issue! Best of luck to all of your heartburners!

    Scott wrote on March 18th, 2012
  16. Hi, I was diagnosed with GERD at the beginning of this year and also advised to have an operation to fix a hiatus hernia. Have no interest in having the op so trying to improve things on my own. Taking meds each morning but have found that eating melon first thing in the morning really helps (or banana), stress is certainly a massive contributor for me as is not eating on a regular basis. Will be trying the ACV remedy! Ginger tea also generally helps. Thanks for your advice!x

    Patnap wrote on April 9th, 2012
  17. You mean heartburn isn’t caused by missing my fiance so much!? She is not going to be happy to hear that…

    All kidding aside, I am beginning to see these symptoms (e.g. intense acid reflux, painful bouts of heartburn that have recently been waking me up at night, constant coughing and clearing my throat, etc). I am a new attorney/recent law school graduate/ recent Bar exam taker, so needless to say I have “put on a few LB’s.” Before I go see a doctor I think I’m going to try and do this natural, but eating healthier and working out. I’m hoping dropping a few pounds (OK more than a few) might help, as well as not eating Wendy’s, Skyline Chili, etc). Good luck to everyone and thanks for the article, great read, especially with the comments!

    John wrote on October 31st, 2012
  18. For anyone with heatburn/GERD, please please read every article on Chris Kessers site here:

    http://chriskresser.com/heartburn

    It goes into great depth about how it is caused (usually from too little acid production) and how it can be stopped and prevented. Betaine HCl worked wonders for me.

    Mike wrote on July 30th, 2013

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