When you're done stuffing your face with your favorite food or drink, one thing you're not looking forward to is the possibility of heartburn. As your chest, throat, and esophagus are suffering from what feels like they are on fire, your body is not so secretly letting you know that what you're trying to digest isn't going to happen without a bit of a battle.
"Digestion is a complicated process," said Elizabeth Gavino, a nutritional therapy practitioner. "Part of our digestive process is for our stomachs to produce hydrochloric acid (HCl) to help with the breakdown of food, yet 95 percent of the population do not produce sufficient amounts of HCl, and we further exacerbate the situation when we are stressed, drinking too much fluid with food, and/or taking antacids."
So, what happens then? Gavino says that if the pH of the stomach isn't right, the pyloric sphincter that connects the stomach to the duodenum will not open, and the food will begin to ferment, putrefy, and become rancid. That's a scientific way of saying that we will start producing gases that bubble up and cause the sphincter that protects the esophagus from the stomach to open and allow some acid to come through and cause that awful burning feeling.
But there are ways to seek relief, and they are anything but ordinary. Check out the four surprising ways to fight heartburn fast, so you can continue eating your favorite food, or fall asleep, without feeling so ill.
Sleep on an Incline
To make sure your sleep schedule isn't interrupted, Chris Brantner, a certified sleep science coach at Sleepzoo, says to change the way you lie down in your bed when you're feeling heartburn. "Sleep on an incline," Brantner said. "Lying flat on your back puts your stomach and throat on the same level. As you can imagine, this makes it easy for acid to travel back up the esophagus. By propping yourself up, you drop your stomach and help keep the acid where it belongs."
Drink Throat Coat Tea
If you're hesitant about eating more food when you have the burn, you might want to turn to a liquid source for relief. Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, a Chinese medicine and integrative medicine doctor, says that gulping down a cup of Throat Coat tea could do the trick.
"Throat Coat is a tea that contains mucilaginous herbs," Dr. Trattner said. "These herbs, like slippery elm, coat the throat, but it is the same cells that line the esophagus and stomach as well, making it a great and natural remedy."
Use Apple Cider Vinegar
Dr. Jeremy Overholt, a chiropractor at Inner Vitality Chiropractic, says that many times heartburn is caused by the lack of acid in the stomach that results in more rigorous muscle contractions to mix the food and digestive juices, causing sloshing of stomach acid into the esophagus.
"Due to its acidity, diluted (with water) apple cider vinegar can help offset the stomach acid deficiency and calm the overactive contractions," Dr. Overholt said. "Generally one to two tablespoons is all that is necessary to bring the stomach into balance. I recommend taking it diluted in one cup of lukewarm water just ahead of your largest meal of the day. Or you can take smaller portions multiple times throughout the day. It is advised that if you habitually drink apple cider vinegar to drink it through a straw to ensure that the acidity of it doesn't affect the enamel of your teeth."
Try Peppermint Oil
If you want to go the herbal route, Dr. Trattner suggests using a peppermint oil. "It helps with nausea, upset stomach, and all digestive disorders," Dr. Trattner said. "I use peppermint oil for digestive spasms. Peppermint oil is sold in special enteric-coated capsules to get into the intestines and bypass stomach acid. If I ate too much and cannot get to bed, I will take a peppermint oil capsule a half hour before bedtime so I don't feel as full before sleeping, which can actually cause delayed onset of sleep."