Ask An Expert·4 min read

A Natural Way to Help Prevent Heartburn Is Probably in Your Pantry

A woman with her hand on her chest looking uncomfortable
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
December 19, 2023

Heartburn is one of life’s fun ways of saying, ‘Tell me you’re an adult without telling me you’re an adult.’ But other than popping Tums after big meals, how can you reduce the discomfort from acid reflux — or prevent it altogether? That’s what we asked Rashmi Advani, MD, assistant professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and director of bariatric endoscopy at Mount Sinai South Nassau. And unlike spicy food, these tips are easy to digest. 

Featured Expert:

Rashmi Advani, MD

Rashmi Advani, MD - Assistant professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and director of bariatric endoscopy at Mount Sinai South Nassau.

What can I do to help my acid reflux naturally?

If you’re over taking antacids with you to every restaurant, Advani says to…

  • Consider eating ginger or honey. Ginger may reduce gastrointestinal inflammation and honey can soothe the esophagus, which may provide relief from heartburn.

  • Eat high-fiber foods. “These [foods] will help not only create [a] healthier GI tract but [they] also change the pH of all that acid that's being secreted in your stomach.” Plus, the slow digestion of fiber helps the stomach regulate its acid production. 

  • Avoid citrus. That might mean saying goodbye to your daily lemon water. Citrus foods can be too acidic and exacerbate acid reflux.

  • Go easy on the peppermint. Sorry if you have a cabinet full of peppermint tea. This ingredient can relax the sphincter that blocks stomach acid from going up into the esophagus. 

  • Eat smaller meals and chew your food more. When your stomach is too full, “it takes the stomach a lot more effort to pump out enough acid to help digest [food],” says Advani. A full stomach can put pressure against the esophageal sphincter, releasing acid back into the esophagus and causing acid reflux.

  • Don’t lay down right after eating. Stay upright for at least 90 minutes after eating, says Advani. Laying down creates an easy exit for acid to move from your stomach to your esophagus. So when it comes to eating dinner…

  • Don’t eat too close to bedtime. If you typically go to bed shortly after eating, it may be the culprit for your acid reflux. 

  • Sleep on your left side or with your head slightly elevated. Sleeping on your left side may help in part because it may keep acid away from the sphincter. Keeping your head at a 30-degree angle at night also helps, says Advani. 

  • Start a food diary. It’ll help you track what triggers your acid reflux so you can be mindful of consuming those foods and drinks in the future. 

  • Look at your medications. Some could include side effects like heartburn. Talk to your doctor about it, because they may be able to adjust your meds, she says. 

When else should I see a doctor about acid reflux?

Occasional acid reflux typically isn’t something to be concerned about. But “if [acid reflux is] really causing a quality of life issue, then I would go straight to a gastroenterologist,” says Advani.

That’s because if it’s severe enough and left untreated, acid reflux may lead to esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus that can cause trouble swallowing), Barrett's esophagus (which in rare cases is a precancerous condition), or ulcers. Advani also explains that other conditions, like GI motility disorders, can even “mask” as acid reflux, which makes it even more crucial to have a doctor see what’s really going on.  

Ask an Expert is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental-health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. By submitting a question, you are agreeing to let theSkimm use it—in part or in full—and we may edit its answer for length and/or clarity.

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