There are many things you can try to better manage your heartburn. The problem is that what works for one person to relieve heartburn may not work for you in the same way. The key to getting rid of acid reflux for good may be found in our best interesting facts about heartburn.
The bottom line is that to be able to cure your heartburn successfully means you need to really understand the cause of your heartburn. I’ve compiled my top 25 interesting facts about heartburn in the hope that you may finally find the cure for your heartburn, and if not, hopefully you’ve found something that can give you heartburn relief.
1. GERD, acid reflux and heartburn are not the same thing
Let’s get one thing straight – heartburn, acid reflux and GERD are not the same thing, although we do tend to use the terms interchangeably.
Acid reflux is the process of stomach acid moving from your stomach back up into your esophagus (food tube).
Heartburn is the burning pain you feel in your chest from your stomach acid refluxing against your inflamed esophagus lining.
And if you have ongoing heartburn this can lead to the chronic condition of gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. Heartburn is just one symptom of GERD.
2. You can do a DIY home test for low stomach acid
Heartburn is often caused by too little or too much stomach acid. And this is one of the reasons why heartburn remedies are so “hit and miss”. Some remedies work best if you have too much stomach acid, while others work for low levels of stomach acid.
Once you know whether you have high or low stomach acid, you’re on your way to figuring out which heartburn remedies are likely to work for you.
The way this simple test works is you mix baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) with your stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) to create carbon dioxide.
This gas causes you to burp. If you burp within 5 minutes, you have about the right amount of acid in your stomach. It you take longer than 5 minutes to burp, or don’t burp at all, you may have low or no stomach acid.
To get the most accurate results, do the test on an empty stomach, when you wake up, for 3 days in a row.
- Mix 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda (not baking powder) with 1/2 cup of cold water.
- Drink the mixture.
- Time how long it takes to burp.
Your physician can do more accurate acidity testing to follow up if needed.
3. Apple cider vinegar can only help heartburn if you have low acidity
Taking diluted apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a common home remedy for heartburn. Did you know that unless you have low levels of acidity in your stomach, you are unlikely to benefit from taking ACV for heartburn?
While there is no scientific proof that ACV for heartburn works, anecdotally it has given many people heartburn relief.
Apple cider vinegar is generally accepted as safe to consume in small amounts when diluted. Dilution is important due to the acidic nature of ACV. If not diluted, apple cider vinegar could cause more damage to your digestive system.
LEARN MORE : How To Use Apple Cider Vinegar For Heartburn
4. Sleeping on your left side can help relieve heartburn
Most people know that you can use gravity to keep acid from refluxing at night by raising to top of your bed 6 inches or using a wedge pillow when you sleep.
Pressure on your stomach can force your lower esophageal sphincter to allow acid to reflux into your esophagus.
Sleeping on your left side is another way to use gravity to relieve pressure off your stomach. This is because your stomach is mostly situated on the right side of your body.
5. Wearing a belt can cause heartburn
Anything tight around your stomach, whether it’s your belt or even a waistband can trigger heartburn. If you have a desk job, that pressure around your stomach increases more when you are sitting down. And to top it off, bad posture will compound problems further.
So if you need to sit for a while, loosen clothing around your waist, be conscious of your posture, and get up and move around, or at least stand up for at regular intervals. A standing work station may help as well.
6. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) don’t work for up to 70% of people taking them
Many people take PPIs for heartburn and GERD. They are among the most commonly used drugs in the world, yet up to 70% of people taking PPIs don’t get any benefit. So why are so many people taking PPIs?
You can buy PPIs over the counter (OTC) or get a prescription. In the case of OTC PPIs, often people don’t do enough to investigate whether PPIs are right for them. It is also possible that some medical professionals are misinformed about PPIs and their risks.
Heartburn may be caused by too little or too much stomach acid. PPIs significantly reduce stomach acid production. So, if you’re not producing enough stomach acid, taking PPI’s are going to make things worse.
There are some very serious side effects of PPIs, and they aren’t suitable for many people that take them.
7. You can get reflux but have no pain
Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR)is also called silent reflux because you don’t experience the telltale sign of burning pain in your chest that you get from acid reflux.
In silent reflux, acid moves further up your esophagus and into your voice box and throat. This is where the name laryngopharyngeal reflux comes from, with the larynx being your voice box and the pharynx being the back of your throat.
These tissues experience inflammation due to exposure to stomach acid, which causes the main symptoms of silent reflux.
8. Avoid carbonated drinks in you have heartburn
You should avoid carbonated drinks because the bubbles (or gas) can increase pressure in your stomach, which is why you feel so uncomfortable after drinking a soda. Then the gas in your stomach causes bloating and burping.
The bubbles (or gas) can also force open your lower esophageal sphincter (LES) between the stomach and esophagus letting acid reflux and create a burning sensation in your chest.
When functioning correctly, your LES should let food into your stomach, but not allow food and acid to reflux back into your esophagus.
9. Cola is as acidic as stomach acid
The pH of various brands of cola range from 2.3 to about 2.5. And normal stomach acid pH is between 1.5 to 3.5 to maintain digestive health. So the two combined create an extremely acidic environment.
That’s not the only way in which cola (and other carbonated drinks) contribute to heartburn. I’ve mentioned above how the bubbles in soda cause bloating and burping, and puts pressure on your LES.
And to make things even worse, cola also contain caffeine, which is highly acidic and relaxes your lower esophageal sphincter.
10. The best alcohol for acid reflux is clear, hard liquor
The best alcohol for acid reflux are clear, hard liquors such as gin and tequila. This is because they contain no sugar, which forms acid in your stomach.
To reduce the likelihood of acid reflux after drinking alcohol try these tips:
- drink in moderation – only have 1-2 alcoholic drinks
- drink slowly
- consume water or vegetable juice slowly between alcoholic drinks
- stay away from your heartburn trigger foods and carbonated drinks
- don’t overeat while drinking
- don’t lie down for at least 2-3 hours after you finish eating and drinking
- use a wedge pillow of raise the top of your bed 6 inches
11. The low alcohol drinks are the worst for acid reflux
Conversely to what you might think, low alcohol drinks are strong acid reflux triggers. This is because these drinks that have a lower alcohol content which is more acidic in your stomach. In addition, artificial sweeteners, found in some alcoholic beverages, are very acidic and can trigger heartburn.
LEARN MORE: What Is The Best Alcohol For Acid Reflux?
12. Probiotics can benefit for heartburn sufferers
Most studies show that probiotics can have a positive effect on your heartburn and GERD symptoms.
Probiotics replenish your gut flora. Gut flora is the mixture of good bacteria (85%) and bad bacteria (15%) that make it possible for your body to properly break down the food you eat. And this supports proper digestion and maximum absorption of nutrition from the food you have eaten.
LEARN MORE: The Best Way To Use Probiotics For Heartburn
13. Milk can give instant heartburn relief, but it doesn’t last
Milk does neutralize the acid in the stomach to start with. And if you have it cold it also provides a cooling effect and instant soothing relief for your heartburn.
But milk usually contains quite a lot of fat. And fatty foods turn acidic in your stomach, slows digestion and can cause reflux.
So, whatever temporary relief the milk gives you, after it has turned to acid in your stomach, it will just add to the existing acid, and that will reflux and cause heartburn.
If you can tolerate dairy milk, try skim milk or no fat milk. Or goat milk may be better for you. There are also plant based alternative milks that some people tolerate better than dairy milk.
14. Caffeine is bad for heartburn
Any drink high in caffeine is very acidic and should be avoided if you have heartburn.
This is because caffeine increases acid production in your gut and relaxes your sphincter that is supposed to stop acid from re-entering your esophagus.
We all know coffee contains caffeine, but it also contains tannins that make your stomach secrete more acid.
Decaffeinated coffee can also be highly acidic, but it’s worth trying if you can’t imagine life without coffee. Remember, it still contains tannins that increase acidity.
Black tea and green tea contain tannins and caffeine, but not as much as coffee. Green tea in moderation might be OK for you.
You can also try herbal teas for heartburn which can relieve heartburn symptoms.
Energy drinks also contain caffeine and are a common cause of heartburn.
15. Lemon water can help heartburn
Although lemon juice is acidic, when diluted with water, it can have an alkalizing effect on your stomach contents and, over time, reduce your acid reflux symptoms.
Try one tablespoon of lemon juice in a cup of water daily.
16. Avoid hard candies and gum balls if you get heartburn
Hard candies and gum balls can increase the amount of air you swallow, which then increases gas in your stomach and causes indigestion and acid reflux.
17. Licorice is good for heartburn, but only in small amounts
Licorice is one of the most widely prescribed herbs in Chinese medicine, and it is a very effective remedy for heartburn.
It soothes the lining of your stomach and esophagus so that your discomfort from heartburn is lessened. Licorice also encourages circulation so that the cells of your gastrointestinal system become healthier.
The main types of licorice that you can take for heartburn are:
- fresh or dried licorice root
- genuine black licorice candy
- deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) in powder or tablet (chews)
Due to it being a natural substance, the potential dangers of licorice can be over looked. Pregnant women and people that take certain medications shouldn’t use licorice as a heartburn remedy. And there can be side effects if you have too much.
18. Secondhand smoke can cause reflux
Research shows smokers are more likely to suffer from heartburn than non-smokers. But did you know passive smoking puts you at greater risk of developing GERD? Secondhand smoke can cause esophagitis in children with GERD. Esophagitis is inflammation of your esophagus, and a common cause is acid reflux.
For smokers, nicotine from tobacco weakens the lower esophageal sphincter and this causes stomach acid to reflux back into their esophagus, causing heartburn.
19. Meat can cause heartburn
Fatty meat or meat in rich sauces or gravy stay in your stomach longer and make heartburn worse. Sausages, bacon, ground beef and deli meats are definitely out.
Cuts of beef to avoid with heartburn are those you normally eat as a streak such as filet mignon, porterhouse and T-bone. They have a high fat content which keeps the meat tender, but can contribute to heartburn.
Lower fat beef cuts are usually those that need stewing or marinating, and these are usually better for heartburn but best eaten in small quantities, for example, chuck and round steak.
Lamb is a fatty meat, so is best avoided, but you could try small servings of leaner cuts. Leg is the leanest part of lamb.
Skinless chicken or turkey breast and pork loin are better choices of meat for heartburn sufferers.
White flesh fish is also a very good choice, but not if it’s fried.
20. Stress is a major cause of heartburn
When you have stress or anxiety, this triggers bloating and flatulence. Your digestion and acid secretion don’t function as they should. As a result you have gas as well as extra acid in your stomach.
With their recurrence, your lower esophageal sphincter also weakens and your condition can become chronic. Which in turn, makes your heartburn worse.
21. Baking soda is a natural antacid
Sodium bicarbonate, the active ingredient in baking soda, helps relieve bloating, gas, and other symptoms of heartburn.
It releases carbon dioxide in your stomach and this helps to release the pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter to let burps out. But this can also allow the acid to reflux at the same time.
Simply dissolve 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of cold water and drink slowly.
Like other antacids, baking soda can, at best, be a temporary solution only and shouldn’t be used for more than 2 weeks.
Baking soda is high in sodium. If you need to limit salt intake, don’t try this remedy. Also, if you have too much, baking soda, it can lead to medical complications.
LEARN MORE: Baking Soda For Heartburn: What You Need To Know
22. The sunshine vitamin can prevent acid reflux
Vitamin D, which you can get from the sun, food or supplements, is good for acid reflux. It aids digestion and has a role in preventing acid reflux, but it’s not a “magic pill” that’s going to cure your heartburn by itself. Rather, making sure you have enough vitamin D will help you manage gastrointestinal problems, along with improving your overall health.
The main role of vitamin D is to help your body absorb other nutrients. So, if your vitamin D levels are low, your body isn’t getting all the nutrition it could from the foods you eat. And this can effect your health in lots of ways, not just digestion and heartburn problems.
Vitamin D also helps fight infection and inflammation in your gut.
23. Aloe vera can help heartburn
Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties which can help your heartburn and GERD symptoms. It works by reducing acid production in your stomach and acting as an anti-inflammatory agent, which reduces your pain.
The best way is to drink aloe vera juice. When you buy aloe vera juice, you need to look for one that has been decolorized and purified, or is latex free. You can also make your own aloe vera juice if you’re careful to remove the part that can cause serious problems.
24. Turmeric aids digestion
Turmeric contains the active ingredient curcumin which helps your gallbladder release important enzymes that digest food.
You can add turmeric to your food, although it’s hard to eat enough to have an effect. You can also make a delicious turmeric tea (you might know it as golden tea). Or you can take turmeric supplements.
25. Dehydration makes heartburn worse
Acid reflux can occur if your stomach doesn’t have enough water to produce digestive acids. Also, drinking water can help limit acid reflux by diluting stomach acid and temporarily neutralizing acidity.
Rather than gulping down whole glasses of water, drink small sips before, during and after your meals. Use a straw to slow down your drinking if you need to.
25 Interesting Facts About Heartburn: Summary
Heartburn is a complex issue, and it tends to be stubborn. But hopefully these facts about heartburn have helped you understand your heartburn a little better, and given you some ideas you can try to relieve your acid reflux.