No one likes heartburn — that uncomfortable burning that settles in your chest and the back of your throat. But certain natural remedies for heartburn (read: lifestyle and diet changes) can help, including being picky about what you drink.
Here, gastroenterologist Jonathan Kung, MD, medical advisor to Sovereign Laboratories, gives his best advice on what to drink and what to avoid for heartburn.
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"Though the evidence-based medicine is not very strong, anecdotally I have had a lot of patients find success in decreasing their heartburn symptoms with non-acidic juices, alkaline-based milk and warm non-caffeinated tea," Dr. Kung tells LIVESTRONG. "These drinks are known to be less acidic and trigger the relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter less, hence, decrease heartburn symptoms."
1. Low-Fat Milk
The jury, aka research, is still out on whether or not milk can help ease heartburn symptoms. One thing is for sure: It won't make it worse. You have to choose wisely, though.
High-fat foods are often a trigger for heartburn, so if you're opting for milk as a heartburn-reliever, go for the low- or non-fat variety. Plant-based milks may be able to offer the same benefit, but there isn't any solid research to support the role of plant-based milks in heartburn relief either. The same rules apply, though: Stick with lower-fat varieties like unsweetened almond, soy or oat milk.
Try These Milks
2. Non-Acidic Juice
Dr. Kung says a non-acidic juice in small amounts may be able to help when you have heartburn. This is to prevent any further irritation of the esophagus and avoid relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter even further. Carrot juice is a non-acidic juice recommended by Dr. Kung.
Bananas and melons are also recommended by Johns Hopkins Medicine as low-acidic fruits, so if you can find these juices without added acid (typically lemon or lime juice), then these are good options as well.
Better yet, you can juice your own fruits or vegetables at home and ensure there isn't any added citrus added in.
Try These Non-Acidic Juices
3. Warm Herbal Tea
Herbal teas have long been hailed as digestive aids. Harvard Health Publishing recommends three specific types of tea to help calm heartburn symptoms: ginger, chamomile and licorice. All three of these teas are naturally caffeine-free. Steer clear of overly fruity teas.
Ginger is a classic digestive calmer, but little research has been done on the effects of ginger tea specifically on heartburn relief. Licorice may help coat the lining of the esophagus and chamomile may be soothing in the face of heartburn symptoms.
Try These Teas
4. Plain Water
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but water can do wonders for your digestive health overall. However, drinking too much can make you overly full and press on your lower esophageal sphincter, so go easy.
Drinking sips of water when you feel your heartburn coming on may be able to provide some relief by helping to clear out the acid and contents that could be causing the heartburn, according to a June 2019 paper in Case Reports in Gastrointestinal Medicine.
Avoid carbonated or sparkling waters, as these could make your heartburn worse. Also avoid drinking large amounts of alkaline waters, as this can make your body work harder to maintain proper pH.
Try These Distilled Waters
Drinks to Avoid When You Have Heartburn
If you are actively battling heartburn, or you want to keep it from returning, there is ample research to suggest what not to drink. Here are the big rules on drinks to avoid when you have heartburn:
- Caffeinated: Coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks
- Carbonated: Sparkling water, soft drinks
- Acidic: Citrus juices, tomato juice
- Alcoholic: Beer, wine, mixed drinks
Dr. Kung doubles down on these recommendations: "It's best to avoid caffeinated drinks and carbonated beverages when possible, as these beverages are known to relax the lower esophageal sphincter, which can lead to more heartburn and reflux symptoms."
Dr. Kung also suggests you may be able to help further reduce irritating the lining of your esophagus, if you are experiencing acid reflux, by avoiding citrus and tomatoes juices — so it's a solid no on those.
When to See a Doctor
If your natural at-home remedies and lifestyle modifications don't seem to be working, there may be more to it. When your heartburn is persistent, it's important to get to your doctor and get checked out. Unchecked reflux can lead to more severe long-term symptoms.
- Harvard Medical School: "Cooling Heartburn"
- Harvard Medical School: "Herbal Remedies for Heartburn"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "GERD Diet: Foods That Help with Acid Reflux (Heartburn)"
- Case Reports in Gastrointestinal Medicine: "Frequent Sips of the Water for the Management of Gastroesophageal Reflux Induced Refractory Cough: A Case Report and Review of the Literature"
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Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.