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Does Peppermint Help Heartburn?

author image Adam Cloe Ph.D./M.D.
Adam Cloe has been published in various scientific journals, including the "Journal of Biochemistry." He is currently a pathology resident at the University of Chicago. Cloe holds a Bachelor of Arts in biochemistry from Boston University, a M.D. from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in pathology from the University of Chicago.
Does Peppermint Help Heartburn?
Mint plant Photo Credit: MajaHouse/iStock/Getty Images

You have heartburn when acid from your stomach travels up into your esophagus, resulting in pain. Although peppermint can sometimes relieve digestive problems, it will make heartburn worse, not better. If you have persistent heartburn, talk to a doctor to learn about medications and lifestyle changes you can make to ease your symptoms.

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Peppermint Uses

In addition to being a well-known flavoring, peppermint can have a numbing and calming effect on the body. Peppermint can be used to treat headaches and nasal congestion. It may also be used to treat digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome and indigestion, as it helps relax the muscles in the digestive tract and allows food to pass through more easily. However, it is this muscle-relaxing effect that makes peppermint unsuitable for treating heartburn.

Heartburn Basics

Heartburn is the result of acid escaping the stomach and going into the esophagus, which is not equipped to handle stomach acid. A muscle at the top of the stomach, called the esophageal sphincter, helps prevent stomach contents from traveling into the esophagus. However, since peppermint can relax this muscle, peppermint may make heartburn worse, not better. Heartburn can be relieved by eating smaller meals, avoiding caffeine and spicy foods and by avoiding lying down for three to four hours after eating. Medications such as antacids and proton pump inhibitors can also treat heartburn. Persistent and severe heartburn may be a sign of an underlying problem, so if you have consistent heartburn after eating, you should talk to a doctor to determine if there is more serious cause of your symptoms.

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