Recently, some friends asked me for home remedies for acid reflux, so it seemed like a great topic to add to the Home Remedies Collection. Whether you call it acid reflux, GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, it doesn't feel good.
Acid Reflux/ GERD Symptoms
Symptoms include upset stomach, regurgitation, and the classic mid-chest burning sensation known as heartburn.
What Causes Acid Reflux/ GERD?
As we age, our stomachs produce less acid, and our digestive enzymes become depleted. Many of us have had our helpful bacteria knocked out by antibiotic medication. The stomach tries to physically work harder to break down the food. The GERD/reflux is commonly linked to harder stomach churning, forcing stomach juices into the esophagus. In this article, we'll cover both quick fixes and long term solutions for acid reflux/GERD.
Home Remedy for Acid Reflux #1 – Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is hands down the most popular home remedy for acid reflux on Earth Clinic, with over 270 positive votes. It's recommended far and wide on the internet and home remedy books.
Some people find indigestion relief by consuming between 1/2 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons of ACV in room temperature or warm water right before a meal. Others prefer a similar dosage upon rising in the morning and before going to bed at night. Some people put a couple tablespoons in a quart of water and drink it over the course of the day, but I'd be hesitant to keep sipping an acidic drink all day long.
Start with a smaller amount of ACV and work up to larger amounts if needed. The flavor is pretty strong, even in water, and some people find it very unpleasant. You can also mix apple cider vinegar into tea in place of lemon. Organic ACV is best, because apples are at the top of the Dirty Dozen list of contaminated produce.
Home Remedy for Acid Reflux #2 – Pickle Juice
Many of us have an open jar of pickles in the fridge. If you don't like vinegar on its own, you can get your vinegar with a little flavor bump via pickle juice. Just take a shot with meals, or any time you're hit with heartburn. Check out my neighbor's recipe for “No Canning Required Dill Pickles” for the easiest homemade pickles you've ever made.
Home Remedy for Acid Reflux #3 – Apples
Whether you choose fresh apples, apple sauce or apple cider, apples provide relief to many when heartburn acts up. Some just use them when symptoms hit, others have added more of them to their diets. One EarthClinic user notes that chilled applesauce really helps relieve the burn. My guess is that the natural pectin in apples coats and soothes an upset stomach.
Home Remedy for Acid Reflux #4 – Aloe Vera
Just as it soothes burns on the outside, this anti-inflammatory plant can soothe “burns” on the inside. It's available in juices, gels and capsules, or you can juice your own aloe vera plants. Just cut open a leaf and scoop out the inside pulp. Consume after meals, on an empty stomach between meals or just before bedtime. *Do not use while nursing or pregnant.
Home Remedy for Acid Reflux #5 – Lemon
Try some lemonade made with real lemons or a glass of lemon water with your meal for a more pleasant way to add a little acidity to your meal.
Home Remedy for Acid Reflux #6 – Mustard
Mustard is a popular option for acid reflux treatment on myhomeremedies.com. Most folks down a spoonful after a meal to get rid of acid reflux, with yellow mustard preferred over other mustard types. This could be linked to mustard's vinegar content, which give it some acidity, plus the mustard seeds themselves contain anti-inflammatory compounds and phytonutrients. Maybe our ancestors were on to something other than just good flavor when they paired up this spicy condiment with heavy foods?
Home Remedy for Acid Reflux #7 – Ginger
You can use commercial ginger teas, or simply slice some fresh ginger and steep it in hot water, then slowly sip. Other people nibble a bit of crystallized ginger, suck on ginger candies or chew ginger gum.
Home Remedy for Acid Reflux #8 – Papaya and other Digestive Enzymes
Papayas, fresh or dried, contains enzymes that help your body break down heavy meals. You can also purchase papaya enzyme in convenient tablet form, sometimes in combination with other enzymes. Take enzymes with a meal, as recommended on the packaging. For fresh or dried papaya, a small portion should do the trick. My neighbor, Betty (of Betty's Dill Pickles and Buttermilk Rye Bread), says that papaya enzymes worked great for her.
Home Remedy for Acid Reflux #9 – Probiotics and Live Cultured Foods
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, as we age things tend to slow down a little, and it's not uncommon for our guts to get out of whack. Healthy humans have more bacteria cells than human cells, so when you take medications that kill bacteria, you can really mess things up.
To help rebuild a happy, healthy microbiome inside your belly, where much or our digestion is actually done by bacteria (true fact), we can consume foods or supplements that contain healthy bacteria that we need or introduce them in supplement form. These healthy bacteria are also known as “probiotics“, and contribute to good health in many ways. This is not likely to provide fast relief, although personally I do find that drinking kombucha with meals helps settle my stomach, especially when the food is a little questionable. You can read learn how to brew kombucha at home in the post, “Kick the Soda Habit – Brew Your Own Kombucha“, and we also have a number of Live Culture Food Recipes in the Recipe Index.
Home Remedy for Acid Reflux #10 – Reduce Stress
I haven't seen anyone talk about this, but I *know* my husband has more trouble with his acid reflux when his stress levels go up at work. That “stomach churning feeling” really does churn up your stomach, and sometimes tear up your esophagus. Figure out some way to let go of your stress and tension. Get some time out in the garden (you'll probably eat better, too). Take a walk, stretch, meditate, talk about your troubles with a supportive friend or family member. Let it go! Whatever it is is not worth sacrificing your health.
Triggers to Avoid for Acid Reflux
Most folks who live with acid reflux have some idea of what triggers the pain, such as spicy foods, fatty foods, chocolate, coffee, alcohol, or simply too much food. Here are some acid reflux triggers that you may not know.
Medications (Prescriptions and OTC), including:
- Osteoporosis drugs known as bisphosphenates—including blockbusters like alendronate (Fosamax), ibandronate (Boniva), and risedronate (Actonel)
- Blood pressure medication (calcium channel blockers and beta blockers)
- sleeping pills and sedatives
- Iron supplements
- antibiotics (as we discussed earlier)
- potassium supplements
You can read more at “9 Medications that Can Cause Heartburn at Health.com“.
Fish Oil Supplements – Fish oil is great for many things, but it doesn't agree with everyone. I take mine with meals.
Timing of meals – My husband is prone to acid reflux, and he finds that if he eats too late in the evening, he's more likely to get acid reflux at bedtime. Be sure to give your meal plenty of time to process before you lay down at night.
Peppermint – Sometimes peppermint is stomach soothing, but you can have too much of a good thing. I like my peppermint nice and gentle, steeped in an occasional glass of tea.
I hope this post is helpful to you if you suffer from acid reflux. Remember, if pain is severe or persistent, see a trained healthcare professional. Pain is our body's way of getting our attention.
The Problem with PPIs for Acid Reflux/GERD
Many folks resort to proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as esomeprazole (Nexium®), lansoprazole (Prevacid®), and omeprazole (Prilosec®). Long term use of PPIs has been linked to problems such as:
- Kidney Damage
- Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea (CDAD)
- Osteoporosis, decreased bone mineral density (BMD), and a 35% increased risk of fractures
- Proton Pump Inhibitors May Increase First-Time Stroke Risk
- Association of Proton Pump Inhibitors With Risk of Dementia
- Long-term kidney outcomes among users of proton pump inhibitors without intervening acute kidney injury
- Clostridium difficile-associated Diarrhea and Proton Pump Inhibitor Therapy
- Long-term Consequences of Chronic Proton Pump Inhibitor Use
Why I Don't Recommend Baking Soda for Acid Reflux
Many people use of a spoonful of baking soda in water for heartburn relief, but there are a couple reasons I didn't include it. First off, baking soda is very high in sodium, so taking an entire spoonful of it could be a problem for some people. Second, and more importantly, adding baking soda to an already over-full stomach can cause the stomach to explode – no joke. This is really rare, because you really need to have a lot of pressure build up, but here's an example from The New York Times, “In Rare Cases of Indigestion, Baking Soda May Be a Peril“:
“I nearly died after taking this stuff,” said William Graves, who suffered a rupture through the wall of his stomach in 1979 after taking baking soda mixed in water for indigestion after a big meal. The 64-year-old resident of Bethesda, Md., who is editor of National Geographic Magazine, said that only emergency surgery saved his life and that six more operations were needed to repair the damage.
He said the incident occurred while he was on vacation after an evening when he consumed two vodka martinis, a bowl of chili with corn chips on the side, a salad, corn bread, a glass of red wine, cookies and an after-dinner brandy. Soon after going to bed, he awakened with indigestion and mixed a teaspoon of baking soda with a small amount of water. Less than a minute after drinking it, he said, he collapsed in agony when a two-and-a-half-inch rupture occurred in the inner curve of his stomach.
Just make sure to use your common sense when trying any home remedy – even those that seem pretty boring.
Other Posts in the Home Remedies Series
- 7 Home Remedies for Upset Stomach to Soothe Indigestion
- The Best Home Remedies for Stomach Flu Treatment
- Things We’re Embarrassed to Talk About – What’s a Healthy Bowel Movement?
This post is for informational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness. Please see a trained healthcare professional is pain is severe or persistent. Always check with your healthcare provider for any potential drug interactions, especially if you are nursing or pregnant.
Originally published in 2014, updated in 2017.