Turmeric is an alternative medicine that helps with digestion and has anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric for heartburn treatment can be helpful, but you can make your GERD and acid reflux worse if you have too much. It’s important to know what sort of turmeric to take and how much you need to relieve your heartburn symptoms.
What is heartburn?
Heartburn is the burning sensation you feel in your chest when stomach acid, which contains hydrochloric acid, refluxes back up into your esophagus or food pipe. The burning sensation occurs when your acidic stomach contents come into contact with the inflamed intestinal wall of your food pipe.
Common heartburn symptoms include:
- bad breath
- chronic sore throat
- dry cough
Heartburn is often associated with other digestive issues including:
- upset stomach
- h. pylori bacteria and abdominal pain
- irritable bowel syndrome
Long term, if left untreated, heartburn can lead to further complications such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, peptic ulcers or stomach ulcers, Barrett’s esophagus and in rare cases, esophageal cancer.
What is turmeric?
Turmeric or Curcuma longa is a perennial plant that belongs to the ginger family. The part of the plant that we consume comes from turmeric’s stems, which are the rhizomes that branch out under the soil.
Turmeric’s stems or rhizomes can be dried and grounded into powder which can be taken either orally or by adding to your cooking. Or you can buy turmeric powder or turmeric supplements.
Turmeric should not be confused with Javanese turmeric root or Curcuma zedoaria, which doesn’t have the same health benefits.
Turmeric is an alternative medicine that has been used since ancient times in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine.
Rich in anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant compounds, turmeric was traditionally used as a herbal supplement to:
- treat rheumatoid arthritis pain
- regulate menstruation
- repair liver damage
- ensure the proper functioning of the digestive tract
Today, turmeric is used as a natural remedy for heartburn, stomach ulcers, and inflammation.
Turmeric powder has a mildly spicy flavor and gives a vibrant yellow color to curries and mustard and some egg, rice, pickles, and fish dishes.
Health benefits of turmeric for heartburn
If consumed over the long term, turmeric can improve your overall health and protect the lining of your digestive tract from stomach acid and reflux.
Turmeric’s health benefits mainly come from its active ingredient, curcumin. Curcumin is a polyphenol antioxidant with potent antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-cancer properties.
There haven’t been any significant clinical studies looking at the effect of turmeric or curcumin on acid reflux. However, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest turmeric has a beneficial impact on digestive health.
A 2006 study of inflammation and oxidative stress in gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) found that anti-inflammatories and antioxidants help treat these factors. The use of turmeric as a treatment for GERD is therefore beneficial as curcumin has these properties.
Since inflammation plays a significant role in most chronic illnesses, curcumin could potentially play a role in preventing and treating such conditions.
Also, a 2019 review of clinical studies found that curcumin was an effective alternative medicine for gastrointestinal tract disorders, including:
- h. pylori
- Barrett’s esophagus
- reflux esophagitis
In addition, curcumin can repair damage to the mucosal lining of intestinal walls caused by long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs include common over-the-counter medications used for pain relief and blood thinners.
Also, the 2019 review identified evidence to suggest curcumin stops the growth of gastric cancer cells. Still, more research is needed to prove this link.
Adverse effects of turmeric
There may be significant side effects of taking turmeric supplements.
You shouldn’t have large doses of turmeric if you’re pregnant because it can alter hormone levels and cause uterine contractions or bleeding. It should be OK for pregnant women to have a normal amount of turmeric in foods like curry.
If you’re breastfeeding, you should not take turmeric supplements either. There’s no evidence to suggest turmeric supplements are dangerous, but it is best to be cautious.
If you are diabetic, turmeric may lower blood sugar to dangerous levels.
Turmeric is a natural blood thinner and can interfere with blood clotting. It should be avoided if you take blood thinning medication or have a bleeding disorder. It should also be avoided for at least two months before surgery.
Turmeric may also aggravate gallbladder problems and kidney stones.
You should avoid turmeric supplements if you have hormone-sensitive conditions such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, breast, ovarian or uterine cancer. Studies have shown turmeric supplements affect estrogen. However, clinical trials have shown opposite effects. Therefore turmeric is best avoided until more is known.
Since turmeric affects your body’s ability to absorb iron, you shouldn’t take it if you use iron supplements.
Turmeric can also react to other medications, including:
- pain medication
- cardiac medications
- cancer medication
- chemotherapy treatments.
Other side effects of turmeric for heartburn
Some people report turmeric makes their heartburn worse. If you take high doses of turmeric or take turmeric long term, this may result in nausea, gastric, and diarrhea.
How to use turmeric for heartburn
If you choose to use turmeric supplements, follow instructions on the package or as directed by your healthcare provider. Do not use more than is recommended on the label.
Clinical trials show that for health benefits to occur, your dose needs to exceed 1 gram per day of turmeric extract that contains mostly curcumin. As it’s hard to consume that much naturally in your food, turmeric supplements are usually the best way.
Usually, an acceptable amount of curcumin supplement to take daily is about 1.4 milligrams per pound of bodyweight, up to 12 grams. Anything more than that can cause adverse reactions.
Turmeric may worsen your heartburn if taken in the wrong dosage or if it reacts with something else in your body. Ask your doctor before using turmeric for heartburn, as it isn’t suitable for everyone.
Turmeric and black pepper for acid reflux
Your body doesn’t readily absorb turmeric, so it’s often combined with black pepper extract piperine to increase bioavailability. This means that black pepper extract helps your body absorb more turmeric.
Piperine helps digestion and has anti-inflammatory properties, so it helps heartburn too. However, due to its peppery qualities, it may aggravate your heartburn if spicy foods are one of your heartburn triggers.
Can turmeric tea cause heartburn?
Most people should tolerate turmeric tea, especially if it’s made without milk. However, since we all have different heartburn triggers, it is possible it could. To reduce your chance of reflux, use skim milk or try low-fat plant-based milk such as almond milk or soy milk, as these are least likely to cause problems.
If you must use a sweetener, maple syrup or stevia is tolerated by most GERD sufferers. Artificial sweeteners are well known for causing acid reflux.
Turmeric tea modifications for heartburn
These recipe modifications I suggest relate to the video below. There are different ways to make turmeric tea, and you can apply these modifications to any recipe.
- Certain kinds of milk may aggravate your heartburn. Skim milk or low-fat almond or soy milk is probably the best approach.
- Try replacing some of the milk with water.
- Ginger is good for heartburn. Leave it in the recipe if it doesn’t give you reflux.
- Maple syrup is the suggested sweetener for the iced turmeric tea in the video below. It should be OK for heartburn but reduce or omit it if you can. Don’t use artificial sweeteners as they’re a big acid reflux trigger.
- Pepper can cause heartburn in some people. Piperine in pepper increases the bioavailability of curcumin. Reduce pepper if you need to.
- Some recipes for turmeric tea (not the ones below) add fats such as coconut oil, ghee, or almond oil for added nutrition. You should avoid fat where possible if you have heartburn because it adds acidity to your stomach and slows digestion.
The following video shows you how to make 3 types of turmeric tea or golden milk.
- Turmeric and ginger tea is suitable for heartburn sufferers because it doesn’t include milk. And ginger is also ideal for heartburn.
- Golden milk – served hot or warm.
- Iced turmeric tea – served cold, which can have an additional soothing effect on heartburn.
Other remedies for heartburn
Turmeric may not be suitable for everyone. Often, the best approach is to try natural remedies first, before conventional medications and medical advice.
Natural remedies for heartburn
There are many alternative remedies for heartburn that you can try, many of which are lifestyle changes:
- Avoid your heartburn food triggers, including fatty foods, acidic foods, and spicy flavors at small, frequent meals.
- Eat 2-3 hours before lying down to sleep.
- Exercise most days.
- Avoid or limit alcohol.
- Quit smoking.
- Reduce stress by doing yoga or meditation for heartburn.
LEARN MORE: 33 Proven Ways To Get Rid Of Heartburn Naturally
Conventional medications for heartburn
Conventional medications include over-the-counter medications (OTC) and prescription medications.
Antacids are OTC medications and neutralize stomach acid, so it doesn’t burn when it refluxes.
H2 blockers make your stomach produce less acid, which may give your esophagus time to heal. They are available OTC and on prescription.
Proton pump inhibitors or PPIs also stop acid production, but in a different way. These are the most potent heartburn drugs available. There are concerns with the long-term use of proton pump inhibitors and should be used only after seeking medical advice.
Choosing the best turmeric supplements for heartburn
Turmeric supplements are homeopathic medications, so manufacturing standards are not regulated, and therefore quality can vary. When buying supplements, you need to purchase them from a reliable source.
Turmeric for heartburn
When you consider turmeric for heartburn, it all comes down to whether your body is taking well to this alternative remedy. Turmeric’s health benefits are good for your digestive tract and can reduce symptoms of acid reflux.
While turmeric for heartburn works for some, and works great, it might not work for you. Your doctor alone can help you with this, so seek medical advice before turning to turmeric for heartburn relief.