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Foods That Fight Heartburn

By R. Morgan Griffin         WebMD Feature Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

You’ve heard about the foods that can make your heartburn worse, from coffee to chocolate to tomatoes. But what about foods that could make your heartburn better? Check out some key eats you should add to your diet.

Eat More Low-Acid Foods

When acid and other liquids in your stomach back up into your esophagus, you get heartburn. The acid that’s already in your stomach isn’t the only problem, though.

The natural acids in foods you eat – like many fruits, vegetables, and drinks — play a role, too, says Bani Roland, MD. She is a gastroenterologist and assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University. To curb heartburn, build your meals around naturally low-acid foods like:

Melons and bananas. While most fruits have a high acid content, these don’t. Bananas are always handy as a snack food. All sorts of melons are good, like watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew.

Oatmeal. It’s a great way to start your day. Oatmeal doesn’t cause reflux, it’s filling, and it has lots of healthy fiber.

Bread. Choose whole-grain – it will be the first ingredient on the label – which is made with unprocessed grains. Other healthy-sounding breads – like wheat, whole-wheat, or 7-grain – may be made with refined grains, which are stripped of natural fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients.

Rice and couscous. These healthy complex carbs are great if you have reflux. When choosing rice, go for brown rice, which has more fiber.

Green veggies. Broccoli, asparagus, green beans, celery, and cauliflower are all low in acid.

Lean poultry and meats. Prepare chicken and turkey grilled, broiled, baked, or steamed. Just remove the skin – and don’t fry it, Roland says. Even ground beef and steak can be fine, as long as they’re lean.

Potatoes. Other root vegetables are good, too – just not onions.

Fish. Grilled, poached, and baked fish are all good choices. Just don’t fry it or use fatty sauces. 

Egg whites. They’re a good source of protein and are low in acid. Just skip the yolk, which is more likely to cause symptoms.

You can’t tell how acidic a food is by looking at it. It’s not on the nutrition label either. But you can research a food’s pH, which is a score of its acid content. The lower the pH number, the higher the acid — lemon juice has a pH of 2.0. If you aim for foods with a pH of 5 or above, you may have fewer symptoms. You can find the pH level of foods on some government sites and in low-acid diet cookbooks.


More Foods to Soothe Heartburn

Other foods and herbs have long been treatments for reflux and upset stomach. But keep in mind that while they may provide relief for some, “they won’t work for everyone,” says gastroenterologist Jay Kuemmerle, MD, of Virginia Commonwealth University. You might want to try:

Fennel. This crunchy vegetable with a licorice flavor makes a great addition to salads. There’s some evidence that fennel can improve your digestion. It has a pH of 6.9, so it’s low in acid, too.

Ginger. A long-standing natural treatment for upset stomach, ginger does seem to have benefits for reflux.

Parsley. That sprig of parsley on your plate isn’t only for decoration. Parsley has been a traditional treatment for upset stomach for hundreds of years. And there’s some evidence that it can help with acid reflux.

Aloe vera. This is another old treatment for GI problems that seems to help with reflux. You can buy aloe vera as a plant or as a supplement — in capsules, juices, and other forms. It works as a thickener in recipes.Just make sure it’s free of anthraquinones (primarily the compound aloin), which can be irritating to the digestive system.

Fight Heartburn With Healthy Food

Add the right foods to your diet. They could really help with your heartburn. But there are limits to what they can do.

Remember that good foods can’t counteract the effects of trigger foods. “Eating a little ginger won’t stop you from getting heartburn after a big dinner of a fatty steak, a salad with tomatoes, a couple of glasses of wine, and a coffee,” Kuemmerle says.

And while eating a low-acid diet is a good strategy, it may not be enough on its own. For some people it’s not so much the acids in the stomach, but the reflux of other stuff in gastric juices – like bile – that trigger heartburn, he says.

“The specific causes of heartburn vary a lot from person to person,” Kuemmerle says. “That’s why treatment always needs a personalized approach.”

 


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Natural Home Remedies for Heartburn

Heartburn is very common – and very unpleasant. It’s triggered when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. It can make you feel as though someone has lit a small bonfire in your chest, and it’s burning its way up to your neck.

You’re probably well aware that medications can help calm the burn, but natural heartburn remedies and lifestyle changes may be another way to get relief.

You eat a big meal out, late at night. You indulge in seconds and then thirds, have a few too many glasses of wine or cups of coffee, and then go to bed on a full stomach. Wake up a few hours later, and the pain is screaming upward from your chest into your throat. You groan: Sleep is impossible. You finally roll over, get out of bed, and stumble to the medicine cabinet. What can you do to stop heartburn fast?

One commonly used “natural” heartburn remedy is calcium. It’s also the active ingredient in many over-the-counter antacids.

If you find yourself popping antacids like candy and you’re having heartburn more than a couple of times a week, or if you are using antacids for longer than two weeks, it’s time to see the doctor. You may have a condition called GERD – gastroesophageal reflux disease. Frequent heartburn can lead to long-term problems. It can cause inflammation and strictures in your esophagus.  In rare cases, it may even lead to cancer. But stopping the acid reflux can help prevent complications in the future.

Here is a rundown of some other commonly used home remedies for heartburn, and the evidence for their effectiveness.

Do Herbal Heartburn Remedies Work?

There isn’t much research into herbal remedies for heartburn. Most of the research has centered on a product called Iberogast. It is made with 9 different herbs, including:

  • Angelica
  • Caraway
  • Clown’s mustard plant
  • German chamomile
  • Greater celandine
  • Lemon balm
  • Licorice
  • Milk thistle
  • Peppermint

Some studies have shown that Iberogast may reduce heartburn, stomach pain, cramping, and nausea. It’s not clear, however, which herb in the mix relieves symptoms. Plus, peppermint oil can actually worsen heartburn, so it’s not a good idea to take it if you have GERD.


Are There Any Other Natural Treatments for Heartburn?

Melatonin, a supplement used to aid sleep, has been suggested to help relieve heartburn. But the research is conflicting as to whether it is effective for this or any other any gastrointestinal symptoms.

Before you decide to take any herbal remedy or supplement, check with your doctor. Some supplements can have side effects or can interact with medications you’re already taking.

Can Drinking Milk Help My Heartburn?

You may have heard that drinking a glass of milk can relieve heartburn. While it’s true that milk can temporarily buffer stomach acid, nutrients in milk, particularly fat, will stimulate the stomach to produce more acid.

Even though milk might not be a great heartburn remedy, however, it’s a rich source of bone-building calcium. Try fat-free skim milk and don’t overdo it. Drink no more than 8 ounces of skim milk at a time – as a snack in between meals. Overfilling the stomach may increase heartburn.

Is Chewing Gum an Effective Way to Get Heartburn Relief?

It may sound strange, but gum stimulates the production of saliva, which is an acid buffer. Plus, chewing gum makes you swallow more often, which pushes those nasty acids back out of your esophagus. When you pick a pack of gum, just make sure it’s sugar-free so you also protect your teeth.

Finding Heartburn Relief at Home

A few simple strategies can help soothe the burn of heartburn:

  • Watch what you eat. Avoid specific foods that trigger your heartburn, but also watch out for peppermint, caffeine, sodas, chocolate, citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, onions, and high-fat foods. Eat more fiber to keep your digestive tract moving and healthy. Also, reduce your portion sizes. Try eating five or six small meals a day, rather than three big ones. Eating too much at once is a big heartburn trigger.
  • Watch when you eat. Push away the plate at least two or three hours before bedtime so your stomach has a chance to empty before you lie down.
  • Watch how you eat. Eat slowly, taking smaller bites.
  • Lose weight . Excess abdominal fat can press against the stomach, forcing acids up into the esophagus. Follow a diet and exercise program to shed extra pounds.
  • Keep a diary. Write down what you’ve eaten and when your heartburn symptoms occur so you can pinpoint which foods are your triggers and avoid them.
  • Toss the cigarettes. Smoking can reduce the effectiveness of the muscle that keeps acids in the stomach. For this, and so many other health reasons, it’s always the perfect time to quit.
  • Loosen your belt. Ditch the skin-tight jeans. Tight clothes put added pressure on the abdomen.
  • Tilt up. Put wood blocks under your bed to raise the head about 6 inches. Don’t bother raising your pillows, though – it’s not effective for heartburn.


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Can Ginger Beat Out The Multi-Billion Dollar Acid Blockers?

By Sayer Ji       Contributing Writer for Wake Up World

Did you know that the multi-billion drug category known as “acid blockers,” despite being used by millions around the world daily, may not work as well as the humble ginger plant in relieving symptoms of indigestion and heartburn?

Ginger is a spice, a food, and has been used as a medicine safely for millennia by a wide range of world cultures. Research on the health benefits of ginger is simply staggering in its depth and breadth. In fact, the health benefits of ginger have been studied extensively for over 100 health conditions or symptoms, making it one of the world’s most versatile, evidence-based remedies.

The biomedical literature on acid blockers, on the other hand, is rife with examples of the many adverse health effects that come with blocking stomach acid production with xenobiotic, patented drugs, i.e. proton pump inhibitors and H2 antagonists. What started out as “heartburn” – which in its chronic form is now called “acid reflux” or “gastroesophageal reflux disorder” – soon becomes stomach acid barrier dysfunction, when these drugs remove the acid which protects us from infection, helps to break down food, and facilitate the absorption of minerals and nutrients.

The list of 30+ harms is extensive, but here are a few of the most well-established adverse effects you may not be aware of:

  • Clostridium Infections
  • Diarrhea
  • Pneumonia
  • Bone Fractures
  • Gastric Lesions and Cancer

Back to our friend – our “plant ally” – ginger.  What happens when Pharma meets Farm in a biomedical face-off? When acid-blocking drugs are compared in efficacy to our little spicy ginger root? Well, this is what the journal Molecular Research and Food Nutrition found back in 2007 …


Titled, “Inhibition of gastric H+, K+-ATPase and Helicobacter pylori growth by phenolic antioxidants of Zingiber officinale,” the study set out to determine the anti-ulcer and anti-Helicobacter plyori (a bacteria commonly implicated in ulcer formation) capacity of ginger extracts versus conventional acid-blocking agents, such as lansoprazole (trade name Prevacid).[i] Researchers found that one fraction of ginger exhibited six- to eight-fold better potency over lansoprazole at inhibiting acid production (specifically, gastric cell proton potassium ATPase activity).

But, this was not all. Ginger was also found to have potent antioxidant properties, protecting both lipids from peroxidation (rancidity) and DNA damage, leading the researchers to conclude that specific fractions within ginger have “potential in-expensive multistep blockers against ulcer.”

While this study focused on specific isolates of the whole ginger plant, it must be remembered that whole plants are not drugs, nor should be reduced to “nutraceutical” magic-bullets in order to become new palliative drug alternatives, which is to say, symptom-repressors, leaving the real healing job of changing the underlying nutritional, environmental, emotional context to lead to the problem in the first place, unchanged.

While taking a ginger pill is usually a better choice than a chemical one, for most folks, ginger should be consumed in whole forms, in moderate and balanced quantities, along with a nourishing, organic, whole-food and traditional foods diet, in order to move beyond the paradigm of popping pills, or proprietary fractions of herbs in order to balance out the pendulum of extremes.

Either way, I think its time with awaken from the sorcery-like spell of pharmacia (Greek word meaning: drug, potion, charm, spell, poison), and realize everything we already need is likely in our backyard, our refrigerators or cupboards – if not altogether within ourselves.

Additional Relevant Research: 
Acid Reflux
Water Extinguishes Stomach Acid 175x Faster Than Some Drugs
[i] Mugur N Siddaraju, Shylaja M Dharmesh Inhibition of gastric H+, K+-ATPase and Helicobacter pylori growth by phenolic antioxidants of Zingiber officinale. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007 Mar;51(3):324-32. PMID: 17295419

About the Author
Sayer Ji is the founder and director of GreenMedInfo.com and co-author of the book The Cancer Killers: The Cause Is The Cure with New York Times best-seller Dr. Ben Lerner and Dr. Charles Majors. His writings and research have been published in the Wellbeing Journal, the Journal of Gluten Sensitivity, and have been featured on Mercola.com, NaturalNews.com, Reuters.com, GaryNull.com, Infowars.com and Care2.com.