Home Remedies for Heartburn and Acid Reflux

Medically Reviewed By Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT
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Several home remedies can help ease the symptoms of heartburn, including avoiding trigger foods, maintaining a moderate weight, taking pressure off the stomach, and changing some sleeping habits.

a woman is sat on a sofa taking an antacid
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Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) happens when the acid in your stomach seeps up into your esophagus. It is common to experience GER occasionally. However, some people notice it more often, and this is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Around 20% of people in the United States experience GERD.

Doctors often find that making lifestyle changes and taking over-the-counter (OTC) medications can usually help control occasional acid reflux. If you experience more frequent acid reflux, however, you may need prescribed medications and treatment for potential complications of GERD, such as esophagitis or esophageal stricture.

Key takeaways

  • Self-care steps can relieve most cases of mild heartburn.
  • Try lifestyle changes like avoiding foods that relax your esophagus and not eating before bed.
  • You have many OTC medications to choose from to ease heartburn, but talk with your doctor if they do not work for you.

Here are some things you can do to relieve acid reflux.

Avoid triggers

Some foods and drinks can trigger acid reflux. Try keeping a food diary to understand which foods can cause your acid reflux. Below are some common triggers.

Alcohol

Some researchers believe that alcohol can weaken the muscles in the esophagus and cause acid reflux. A 2019 review suggested that the link between GERD and alcohol consumption strengthened in cases where people drank alcohol more frequently and in higher quantities.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases confirms that alcohol is a common trigger of GERD symptoms.

Try reducing your alcohol intake and discuss any changes in symptoms with your doctor.

Tea and coffee

Coffee and caffeinated tea are also commonly reported triggers of heartburn. However, some research indicates that tea and coffee do not lead to higher instances of GERD symptoms.

Other researchers have acknowledged the lack of scientific evidence of a link between coffee and acid reflux but stated that the association might be due to the acidity of coffee rather than its caffeine content.

Keeping a food diary and noting any links between coffee consumption and acid reflux symptoms may help you understand if the beverage is a trigger for you.

Acidic foods

It may be best to avoid foods with high acid content. Such foods include:

  • tomatoes
  • orange
  • grapefruit
  • pineapple

Note that these foods are also available as drinks and sauces, which can also worsen acid reflux.

Chocolate

Chocolate may worsen heartburn. This is because it contains a compound called methylxanthine that can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, thereby allowing acid to pass up into the esophagus.

Some experts recommend carob as an alternative for chocolate in people with acid reflux.

High fat foods

Meals that are higher in fat, such as fried foods, can decrease the pressure of the lower esophageal sphincter. They can also delay the emptying of the stomach, which may lead to acid reflux.

However, not all types of fat are dangerous. For example, you can try replacing saturated and trans fats with unsaturated fats.

TypeExamples
Avoidtrans fatsprocessed foods
cooking fats, such as shortening
Replace withmonounsaturated fatsolive oil
sesame oil
sunflower oil
avocados
nuts and seeds
Avoidsaturated fatsmeat
dairy
Replace withpolyunsaturated fatsflaxseed oil
soybeans
tofu
fatty fish, including salmon and trout

Learn more about the different types of cooking oils here.

Maintain a moderate weight

Managing your weight can help reduce heartburn. Having a lot of abdominal fat is a significant risk factor for acid reflux.

Obesity — especially excess abdominal fat — also increases the risk of complications from acid reflux, such as Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer.

Learn about how to lose weight here.

Take pressure off your stomach

Anything that puts pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter from below can lead to heartburn. Increased pressure on your stomach, for instance, is one common cause of heartburn.

The following tips can help ease pressure on the stomach and reduce the frequency of acid reflux symptoms:

  • Avoid eating big meals. Instead, eat smaller meals more often.
  • Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing, or loosen your belt.
  • Avoid eating before going to bed. Do not lie down for 2–3 hours after eating.
  • Do not bend or lift after eating.
  • Do not exercise after eating.

Improve your sleeping habits

Many people experience heartburn while they are trying to sleep. This is called nocturnal GERD.

To reduce this, try the following lifestyle tips:

  • Raise the head of your bed: Put blocks under the bedposts, or add pillows under your head and upper back to raise this part of the body by 6–8 inches. This will mean that gravity can help reduce acid reflux.
  • Sleep on your left side: Your esophagus enters your stomach on your right side. So, sleeping on your left side prevents upward pressure on the esophagus.
  • Do not go to bed immediately after eating: Wait 3–4 hours after eating a full meal before going to bed.

Try OTC medications

You have many OTC heartburn medications to choose from. Some can help when heartburn strikes, while others can prevent heartburn.

For instance, you could try:

  • OTC antacids: These change the acids in stomach juices. The best time to take an antacid is 1 hour after you eat. That is when acid production is highest. Taking an antacid at bedtime may prevent heartburn at night.
  • H2 blockers: These work by decreasing acid production. Many of these are now available OTC. 
  • Proton pump inhibitors: These decrease the amount of acid that your stomach produces. They can also help heal the esophageal lining.
  • Natural remedies: Some examples that may help reduce heartburn include:
    • baking soda
    • ginger root
    • chewing gum

Always check with your doctor before using any OTC drugs or herbal medications.

In pregnancy

People may experience heartburn during pregnancy, but OTC medications are not always safe for them to take at this time.

Talk with your doctor and discuss treatment options if you experience heartburn while pregnant.

Limit stress

A final tip is to reduce or avoid stress. Stress can make heartburn worse.

Relaxation techniques — such as deep breathing, mindfulness exercises, and yoga — can help reduce stress. Resist trying to relieve stress by smoking or drinking. Both of those behaviors can increase heartburn.

Get more tips for managing stress in a healthy way here.

When to contact a doctor

If you have tried self-care for heartburn but still experience it frequently, contact your doctor. They can recommend prescription medications or other forms of treatment to help relieve heartburn. They can also determine if another condition is causing acid reflux.

Doctors may also need to treat complications of heartburn in people with GERD.

Learn more about when to contact a doctor for heartburn here.

Summary

Several lifestyle tips can help reduce the severity and frequency of heartburn. For example, avoiding trigger foods, raising the head of your bed, and avoiding lying down after eating big meals can all help relieve and prevent heartburn.

However, if you feel concerned about your heartburn, contact a doctor. They will be able to recommend some treatment options based on your individual circumstances.

Always discuss lifestyle changes with your physician before making them.

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Medical Reviewer: Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT
Last Review Date: 2022 Jan 25
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.