How to Control Your Heartburn Naturally

Some of us are obsessed with medicine. We get a stomach ache and rush to the doctor, screaming for a prescription; our throat hurts so we down an over-the-counter (OTC) syrup, all the while carrying on with our everyday lives as if the meds will miraculously cure us. Lost in all this quick-fix hysteria is that if we drank more green tea, more orange juice, and got eight hours of sleep, our body would be more likely to naturally defend itself against sickness.

The response to heartburn is no different. While there are three OTC types of medications (antacids, H2-receptor antagonists, proton pump inhibitors) available to treat heartburn, there are a variety of alternative ways to combat it. And you might find that by trying them out, you can plow through far less boxes of Tums.

Lifestyle changes are essential to treating heartburn. From eating to exercising to working to traveling to sleeping, there are tricks to minimizing heartburn. During mealtime, stay away from "trigger" foods, by watching your intake of fatty foods, cutting back on citrus, and avoiding chocolate and peppermint. These foods relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which, by allowing undigested food to creep back into the esophagus, can lead to heartburn. Afterward, chewing sugarless gum can help produce saliva and lower acid and sugar levels in the throat. Because you eat three meals per day, with one to two snacks, eliminating a few trigger foods can have a large effect on your likelihood of getting heartburn.

The same thinking applies to other things that you do every single day. When you sleep, use a foam board to elevate your head 6 inches. When you exercise, avoid high-impact movements that jostle the stomach. While working, drink one less cup of coffee per day-caffeine is a trigger food. During travel, allow yourself enough time to reach your destination-studies show that those suffering from heartburn are more likely to experience symptoms when stressed. And when you engage in social activity, cut back on alcohol-studies show that you're more like to suffer from heartburn after drinking wine, beer, and liquor.

Lastly, if you suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), you may be be able to cut back on medicine and avoid surgery. A new study shows two types of therapies that can help. One uses a long, narrow tool called an endoscope, and the second uses energy waves; both are meant to improve the relationship between the esophagus and stomach. In the study, researchers found that for those with GERD, both therapies reduced symptoms and a reliance on proton pump inhibitors.