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. In this post we'll cover quick fixes for acid reflux and GERD symptom relief, long term solutions to improve digestive health, acid reflux triggers to avoid and the side effects of PPIs.
What is GERD? What is Acid Reflux?
GERD is short for gastroesophageal reflux disease. “Gastro” deals with your stomach, “esophageal” deals with your esophagus, the tube that delivers food to the stomach, so “gastroesophageal” is where the two meet. “Reflux” is backwards flow – in this case, food and acid flowing back up the esophagus. “Disease” generally indicates a chronic condition, as opposed to occasional acid reflux.
Symptoms of acid reflux and GERD are similar, but acid reflux commonly passes quickly or is only a problem once in a while. GERD sticks around, and prompts many people to get on prescription acid blockers. These acid blocking medications may calm symptoms, but they can also cause other problems, which I'll discuss below. GERD may also cause other long term issues such as scar tissue buildup at the base of the esophagus.
What Causes Acid Reflux and 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 sphincter that closes the top of the stomach may also weaken with age or disease, allowing it to open when it shouldn't.
GERD and acid reflux are 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 and GERD.
Acid Reflux and GERD Symptoms
Symptoms of acid reflux and GERD include upset stomach, regurgitation, and the classic mid-chest burning sensation known as heartburn. Sometimes there's a bitter or bile taste in the back of the throat. Lying down or bending over may make the pain worse.
#1 Home Remedy for Acid Reflux – Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is one of the most popular home remedies for acid reflux. Some people get acid reflux 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. My husband does a shot of plain apple cider vinegar after a meal for acid reflux relief.
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. You can learn how to make your own homemade apple cider vinegar from apple scraps here.
#2 – Pickle Juice
If you don't like vinegar on its own, you can get your vinegar with a little flavor bump via pickle juice. Many of us have an open jar of pickles in the fridge, so pickle juice is an easy option for acid reflux treatment.
Just take a shot with meals, or any time you're hit with acid reflux. Check out my neighbor's recipe for “No Canning Required Dill Pickles” for the easiest homemade pickles you've ever made.
#3 – Apples, Apple Sauce and Apple Cider
Whether you choose fresh apples, apple sauce or apple cider, apples provide relief to many when heartburn acts up. Some use them when acid reflux symptoms hit, others add more apples to their diets. Chilled applesauce can do double duty, cooling and coating for an acid reflux home remedy. My guess is that the natural pectin in apples coats and soothes an upset stomach. others suggest it may be the trace minerals or alkalinity. You can check out apple cider drink recipes here, and learn how to make homemade applesauce here.
#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 aloe vera after meals, on an empty stomach between meals or just before bedtime as an acid reflux remedy or treatment for GERD. *Do not use while nursing or pregnant.
#5 – Lemon
Lemon juice is #5 in our acid reflux remedy countdown. 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. *Note: Remember not to drink large quantities of liquid with meals. Although some fad diets recommend this to help fill you up, too much liquid dilutes digestive acids. This means that your stomach has to physical churn harder to break down food. Sip your drinks with meals, don't guzzle.
#6 – Mustard
Mustard is another popular option for acid reflux treatment. 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?
#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 for acid reflux relief.
#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 as an acid reflux remedy.
#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. If you're suffering from GERD, I strongly recommend that probiotics be a part of your home remedies for GERD.
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. 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.
#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 to get 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:
- Chronic Liver Disease
- 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
- Common acid reflux medications promote chronic liver disease
- 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 2018. Yes, that's me in the photo, doing my best to model someone with acid reflux, since I did not have it at the time. I do my own stunts.
Laurie Neverman is the creator of Common Sense Home (formerly Common Sense Home). She was raised on a small dairy farm in northwest Wisconsin, and worked in the family catering business as her summer job through high school and college. She has a BS in Math/ Physics and an MS in Mechanical Engineering with an emphasis in renewable energy.
Her gardening adventures include companion planting, wildcrafting (using weeds for food and medicine), vertical gardening, herbalism and permaculture. Her family’s Green Built certified home includes an attached greenhouse, root cellar and canning pantry, which extend the growing season and allow them to store food for year round use. She hasn’t found a wild edible she wouldn’t try (including quackgrass wine), and grows over 100 varieties of fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers in her garden each year.
Laurie was a professional caterer during the summer months of high school and college, and earned her bachelors degree in math/physics and her masters in mechanical engineering with an emphasis in renewable energy. Before coming home to raise her family, she operated the world's largest solar water heating system. Learn More About Laurie Neverman