Being able to indulge in delicious homemade meals is one of the main reasons we love the holiday season. But while the special food is a huge holiday treat, it’s not always such good news for our stomachs. Stomach aches, bloating, gas — all of them can crop up when we suddenly switch up our diet. Especially prevalent, and especially painful, is heartburn.
“Acid reflux, otherwise known as heartburn, is when stomach acid or bile irritates the esophagus lining,” says Niket Sonpal, MD, an internist and gastroenterologist in New York City. “This occurs when the muscle around the lower esophagus does not close properly, allowing the acid produced to make its way back up. When this occurs, it exposes the sensitive tissues throughout your esophagus pipe, which can induce painful burning sensations.”
The good news? There are natural solutions, many of which you probably already have on hand, that can keep acid reflux at bay. Here, seven of the best home remedies.
Wear loose clothing.
Want an excuse to break out your favorite pair of joggers? Look no further: They could help soothe heartburn symptoms. Research has shown that wearing tight clothes around your waist puts pressure on your abdomen and the lower esophageal sphincter, which forces food and acid back up into your esophagus. Play it safe this season with an expandable, stretchy waist — your stomach will thank you.
Eat oatmeal for breakfast.
Adding in this basic food might be able to help calm down your acid reflux symptoms. “Its absorbing properties can assist in soaking up the acid in your stomach, which can help reduce the symptoms,” Dr. Sonpal says. Even if you’re not normally an oatmeal person, having it for breakfast every morning during the holiday season can help balance out richer dinners to keep your stomach settled.
Many different cultures have used ginger to fight stomach issues for thousands of years. And it really works, Dr. Sonpal says: The spicy root has natural anti-inflammatory properties and helps reduce the production of stomach acid, aids digestion, and stops heartburn at its source. Dr. Sonpal says that drinking ginger tea is best — that way, the hot liquid can also soothe your esophagus as it goes down.
Drink herbal teas.
Dr. Sonpal says that chamomile, papaya, and licorice teas can all also relieve acid reflux. “These teas aid in producing a higher mucous lining of the inner esophagus, preventing the stomach acid from causing severe damage,” he explains. For the most intense symptoms, go for licorice first; Dr. Sonpal says it has the strongest effects.
When you have heartburn, it can make you feel super full — so downing a ton of water might not be your first instinct. But drinking a glass when you’re experiencing acid reflux can wash out the irritating acid from your esophagus, Felice Schnoll-Sussman, MD, a gastroenterologist at New York Presbyterian Hospital, previously told Refinery29. Sip, don’t chug.
Chew this type of gum.
This increases your saliva production, making you swallow more often. The extra moisture clears any acidity (to ease in-the-moment pain) and coats your esophagus (to protect the sensitive tissue). Any gum works but Dr. Sonpal suggests the sugar-free kind. “[It] contains bicarbonate, or baking soda,” he says. Baking soda is alkaline and can neutralize stomach acid to quickly ease symptoms. (Just in case that gives you any ideas, Dr. Sonpal does not encourage ingesting plain baking soda, even mixed with water, for acid reflux.)
Keep a food diary.
If heartburn is more than an occasional thing, Sonpal says you might want to think about keeping a food diary to try and pinpoint exactly what might be giving you acid reflux. Write down what you ate, how much, what time it was, and any symptoms you experienced after, he says. Over time, you’ll notice patterns: eating X food caused Y symptoms. Eliminate the triggers (common ones are fried or acidic foods) from your diet, or at least cut back and have a game plan for when you do eat them (like keeping ginger candies nearby).