Heartburn is a painful burning sensation in the chest or throat caused by stomach acid rising up into the esophagus. It’s often triggered by certain foods and beverages. While some drinks can trigger heartburn symptoms, others may actually help relieve discomfort. This article explores the best and worst beverages for heartburn, with tips on ingredients to look for and ingredients to avoid.
Causes of Heartburn
Heartburn occurs when stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus, the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. The esophageal sphincter is supposed to prevent this backflow, but if it relaxes inappropriately or weakens over time, acid can escape into the esophagus and cause irritation.
Some factors that can trigger heartburn or make it worse include:
- Eating large, heavy, or fatty meals
- Eating spicy, acidic, or tomato-based foods
- Drinking alcohol, coffee, or carbonated beverages
- Being overweight or obese
- Hiatal hernia
Certain beverages are common heartburn triggers because they can relax the esophageal sphincter, increase acid production, or irritate the esophagus directly. However, the right drinks can help relieve symptoms. Let’s look at some dos and don’ts.
Beverages to Avoid for Heartburn Relief
Some drinks are known to trigger or worsen acid reflux and heartburn. Beverages to avoid include:
|Reason to Avoid
|Coffee and tea
|Caffeine can relax the esophageal sphincter and stimulate acid secretion
|The carbonation can cause belching and relax the esophageal sphincter
|Alcohol increases stomach acid production and relaxes the esophageal sphincter
|The acidity can irritate the esophagus
|Spicy tomato juice
|Tomato-based drinks and spicy flavors can irritate the esophagus
Limiting or avoiding these types of drinks is recommended, especially if you experience frequent or severe heartburn symptoms. However, some modifications can make them safer for heartburn sufferers.
Tips for Enjoying Problematic Drinks
- Dilute citrus juices with water or club soda. The lower acidity is less likely to trigger symptoms.
- Switch to low-acid varieties of coffee and tea, which are gentler on the stomach.
- Limit alcohol quantity – one drink or less is less likely to cause problems.
- Avoid carbonated drinks. Let them go flat before drinking to remove the bubbles.
- Drink these beverages with a meal, not on an empty stomach, so there’s food to absorb excess acid.
- Avoid drinking problem beverages near bedtime, when lying down makes reflux more likely.
Helpful Beverages for Heartburn Relief
While some drinks can trigger heartburn, others may help relieve symptoms. Some helpful options include:
|Reason It Helps
|Calcium and protein help strengthen the esophageal sphincter
|The soothing liquid can wash acid back down and reduce inflammation
|Ginger helps reduce stomach acid and improve digestion
|Licorice root has anti-inflammatory effects that may coat and protect the esophagus
|Blending ingredients like banana, spinach, almond milk, and avocado adds nutrients without irritation
|Helps dilute stomach acid and keep you hydrated
Tips for Using Relieving Beverages
- Sip these drinks slowly and avoid gulping, which can bring on reflux.
- Drink larger amounts between rather than during meals.
- Herbal teas are great after dinner or before bedtime when lying down.
- Blend soothing smoothies with banana, melon, spinach, avocado, or nut milks.
- Room temperature or warm drinks are better than ice cold.
- Avoid adding triggers like chocolate, peppermint, or citrus to otherwise safe drinks.
Natural Remedies for Heartburn Relief
In addition to beverages, some natural supplements and remedies can help relieve heartburn discomfort. Options to try include:
- Chewing gum – Chewing gum stimulates saliva production, which helps neutralize stomach acid and wash acid back down into the stomach.
- Ginger – Ginger root has anti-inflammatory properties and promotes digestion. Drink ginger tea or take ginger supplements.
- Baking soda – Mix 1/2 teaspoon baking soda with 4-6 ounces water. Be careful not to overuse baking soda long-term.
- Aloe vera juice – Aloe vera coats and soothes the esophagus to calm irritation from reflux.
- Apple cider vinegar – Although counterintuitive, a small amount of apple cider vinegar helps balance stomach acidity before meals.
- Fennel seeds – Chew fennel seeds after meals to aid digestion and reduce acid production.
Discuss natural remedies with your doctor before trying, especially if you take other medications.
When to See a Doctor
Frequent or severe heartburn may be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). See your doctor if you experience:
- Heartburn more than twice per week
- Difficulty swallowing
- Unexplained weight loss
- Blood in vomit or stool
- Severe pain or burning in the chest
A doctor can provide prescription medications or suggest advanced treatments like surgery to repair a damaged esophageal sphincter if needed.
|How It Helps
|Neutralize stomach acid
|H2 blockers (e.g. Tagamet)
|Reduce acid production
|Proton pump inhibitors (e.g. Prilosec)
|Block acid secretion more powerfully
|Reinforces the esophageal sphincter to prevent reflux
Tips for Preventing Heartburn
Making certain lifestyle changes can also help prevent heartburn flare-ups.
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals rather than large meals.
- Avoid eating within 2-3 hours of bedtime.
- Quit smoking and manage stress.
- Achieve or maintain a healthy weight.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing.
- Raise the head of your bed 6 inches by putting blocks under the bedposts.
Monitoring food triggers, controlling portions, and making smart dietary swaps are also beneficial strategies. An acid reflux diet plan can get symptoms under control with guidance from a nutritionist or doctor.
While heartburn triggers like coffee, alcohol, and soda should be limited or avoided, certain beverages like herbal tea, low-fat milk, and ginger tea can help relieve symptoms. Additional remedies, medications, and lifestyle changes are available for more persistent heartburn. Pay attention to drinks and foods that worsen your reflux, and opt for those that ease discomfort. With the right dietary and lifestyle changes, you can manage heartburn flare-ups and improve your quality of life.