Milk: It Does Soothe But Can It Cure Heartburn?

It is quite possible that your mom or grand-mom told you that in case of heartburn have a glass of warm milk. More recently people are still advising milk – but instead, cold milk – to soothe the discomfort of heartburn. But the thing that we are going to discuss today is – can milk actually bring long term relief?

Let’s first see, how both warm milk and cold milk should affect the gastrointestinal tract in the case of heartburn:

  • Milk, when had warm, goes to the stomach and neutralizes the acid there – so ideally it should control GERD.
  • On the other hand, the cold milk has the same effect in the stomach, but on the way to the stomach, it has a cooling and, therefore soothing, effect on the esophagus.

The bottom line is then that milk does neutralize the acid in the stomach – and if you have it cold it also provides a cooling effect thereby providing an instant soothing relief for your acid reflux symptoms.

But what happens in the long run?

Photo Credit: Mycael via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Mycael via Compfight cc

That’s right… If you remember the ‘eliminate food triggers’ discussion, you should remember that milk and generally all dairy, fall under the acidic foods category. This is because milk contains certain nutrients and usually quite a bit of fat. When they are in the stomach, they react to actually produce more acid!

So, whatever temporary relief the milk gives you – soon after when it has formed acid in the stomach, it will just add on to the existing acid that will again reflux back past a weak lower esophageal sphincter and cause you the same discomfort and pain!

So, as you see – milk is at best a temporary relief for heartburn. In the long run, it will not do much good for your heartburn…


So, should you give up milk?

Well, not really. Milk, and more specifically the fat in the milk, will worsen GERD and heartburn. But in other ways, milk is good for you. Not only will it make your bones stronger, it can also be a great way to ‘fill-up’ between meals!

People with heartburn are usually advised to have smaller meals more frequently. And this includes a number of snacks in between meals. And for one or two of these snack-times you can actually have an 8-ounce glassful of fat-free/skim milk.

Milk cannot cure your heartburn… But milk can soothe the pain if it is really bad. But more importantly, it can keep you full and healthy so that you can try to avoid heartburn. So, use milk for heartburn – but not before you understand the short and long term consequences!