Tips to Live By

Home Remedies for Heartburn: 8 Ways to Get Rid of Acid Reflux

Aug. 1, 2023 - Katie McCallum

Despite what its name implies, heartburn has nothing to do with your heart. Rather, it's a burning sensation in your esophagus, the 10-inch tube connecting your mouth to your stomach.

When it hits, heartburn can last for just a few minutes or as long as several hours. Either way, it's uncomfortable — so it's no surprise if you're looking for a way to get rid of the sensation fast.

What causes heartburn and what does it feel like exactly?

"Heartburn is caused by gastric secretions refluxing from the stomach into the esophagus," explains Dr. Kerri Glassner, gastroenterologist at Houston Methodist.

The acidic contents of the stomach are needed to break down the food you eat, something your stomach has no trouble handling. Your esophagus, on the other hand, is irritated — and can even be injured — by it.

To keep the acidic contents of your stomach out of your esophagus, a circular ring of muscle at the tube's base, called the lower esophageal sphincter, acts as a valve. When this valve is relaxed, food you've consumed is allowed to pass through to your stomach. When contracted, this valve prevents this food and acid from backing up into your esophagus.

If this valve relaxes abnormally and stomach contents are allowed to travel back into your esophagus, acid reflux occurs. Heartburn is the most well-known and obvious symptom.

It can feel differently depending on its severity, but heartburn symptoms include:

  • A burning sensation in your chest, behind your breastbone
  • Burning pain that rises up toward your throat
  • Having a bitter or sour taste in your mouth

Acid reflux and heartburn are sometimes caused by an underlying medical condition, or even a medication you're taking in some cases. But, more often than not, they're triggered by things like your diet and lifestyle choices — making the occasional bout of heartburn fairly common.

Dr. Glassner says common triggers of heartburn include:

  • Consuming certain foods, including spicy and acidic foods, caffeine, chocolate and alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight

8 home remedies for heartburn

If you're trying to avoid acid reflux or get rid of heartburn fast, here are eight ways to ease — and even prevent — your symptoms:

1. Keep a food journal and avoid trigger foods

As mentioned, certain foods and drinks can trigger acid reflux and heartburn.

"These foods trigger heartburn by reducing lower esophageal sphincter pressure, making it easier for acidic contents to reflux into the esophagus," explains Dr. Glassner.

You can help identify the specific foods most likely to give you issues by keeping a food and symptom diary. Once you do identify them, avoid these foods and drinks whenever possible.

2. Avoid lying flat right after eating

Laying down with a stomach full of food can trigger acid reflux and make heartburn symptoms worse. Avoid eating within 2-3 hours of your bedtime so your stomach has plenty of time to empty.

3. Resist the urge to overeat or eat quickly

This rings true especially if you do so right before bed, since having a large amount of food in your stomach may put more pressure on the valve that keeps stomach acid out of your esophagus, making acid reflux and heartburn more likely.

4. Take steps to lose weight if you are overweight

Excess weight puts extra pressure on your stomach, increasing your risk of acid reflux and heartburn. Eating a well-balanced diet and getting 150 minutes of physical activity per week are the first two steps to maintaining a healthy weight and losing excess weight.

(Related: How Much Should I Weigh?)

5. Elevate the head of your bed

Elevating your head and chest higher than your feet as you sleep can help prevent and ease acid reflux and heartburn. You can do this by raising the head of your bed with blocks underneath the bedposts or using a foam wedge placed under the mattress. Beware of piling pillows, as this usually isn't effective and may even make your symptoms worse.

6. Adjust your sleep position

It's thought that sleeping on your left side might aid digestion and may work to limit stomach acid reflux, though Dr. Glassner points out that this can be challenging to do with some types of beds.

7. Wear loose-fitting clothing

If you're prone to heartburn, tight-fitting belts and clothing that put pressure on your stomach may be contributing to your symptoms.

8. Stop smoking if you smoke

Quitting smoking can reduce the frequency and severity of acid reflux and, in some cases, even eliminate it.

What to do if heartburn is severe or frequent

For mild, occasional heartburn, over-the-counter medications such as antacids can help relieve symptoms. Always read the product label before taking any medication and never take a larger dose or more doses than directed.


If you have severe heartburn or if it persists or worsens after taking steps to relieve it, consult your doctor.

"If you are having daily symptoms requiring antacids, it's time to be evaluated by a gastroenterologist," says Dr. Glassner. "Additionally, if heartburn symptoms are uncontrolled despite a trial of a daily proton pump inhibitor, it's important to consult your doctor."

Dr. Glassner says that other treatment options for acid reflux may need to be considered. In some cases, heartburn can be a risk factor for Barrett's esophagus, a precancerous change of the esophagus, or even esophageal cancer.

More warning signs that warrant examination by a gastroenterologist include:

  • New onset of heartburn in people who are 60+
  • Throwing up blood
  • Having black or bloody stools
  • Difficulty swallowing or pain with swallowing
  • Vomiting
  • Poor appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss

Need care now?

Houston Methodist Virtual Urgent Care offers on-demand video visits from wherever you are, no appointment needed. Our board-certified providers are available 24/7 to address many common health issues.

Start a video visit >

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