5 Heartburn Remedies
If acid reflux is turning your chest and throat into a hot zone, extinguish the fire with these doctor-recommended solutions.
Best for: Occasional post-meal heartburn.
How they work: Heartburn occurs when digestive stomach acid migrates to the esophagus, the tube that connects the throat to the stomach. (The acid in the esophagus eventually flows back into the stomach.) Antacids, like Tums and Maalox, offer 30 to 45 minutes of relief by neutralizing the acid, while H2 blockers, like Pepcid and Zantac, soothe heartburn for six to eight hours by reducing acid production. When taken at the onset of symptoms, both types of medications need about 15 minutes to work, says Lauren Gerson, an associate professor of gastroenterology at Stanford University. Antacids come as chewable tablets or liquids, are cheaper and are good for treating mild symptoms; H2 blockers are pills that may work best for slightly more severe cases. Gerson suggests starting with antacids and, if symptoms persist, moving on to H2 blockers.
Good to know: Popping an antacid or an H2 before eating suspect foods may help prevent heartburn. Fats are common culprits: They cause the valvelike muscle between the esophagus and the stomach, called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), to relax, allowing acid to leak. Big meals can also mean trouble. They stretch the stomach, which puts reflux-inducing pressure on the LES. No medicine handy? Try gum. According to a study published in the Journal of Dental Research, chewing gum for half an hour immediately after meals reduced acid levels and heartburn. “The gum increases saliva, which, as you swallow, clears and neutralizes acids,” says study coauthor Rebecca Moazzez, Ph.D., a lecturer and consultant at King’s College London Dental Institute. Opt for sugar-free to help prevent cavities, and avoid mint flavors, which can, in some people, relax the LES and exacerbate the problem.