Heartburn has nothing to do with the heart. It is a term used for the burning sensation experienced after consuming acidity-causing foods.
The food that we eat travels from the mouth to the stomach via the esophagus, commonly known as the food pipe. As we swallow, the muscles in the food pipe relax or open up to let the food move into the stomach and then close down after each passage. In some people, these muscles do not work properly. Due to this, the acids in the stomach move back up into the esophagus. Since the walls of the esophagus are not designed to tolerate acid, it gets irritated and inflamed. The acid generally causes a burning sensation in the upper abdomen, along with a sour taste in the mouth. This condition is known as Heartburn or Acid-reflux.
1. Black Pepper (Piper nigrum)
Our stomach produces acids which break down the food that we eat into a simpler form. Sometimes, low level of digestive juices in the stomach delays digestion of food which may lead to heartburn and gas. Black pepper stimulates the secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach and thus provides relief from heartburn and other symptoms of indigestion.
Powdered black pepper mixed with jaggery or buttermilk is a popular home remedy for heart burn.
2. Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Known as Mulethi in India, licorice is used by herbalists to treat digestive and respiratory conditions. Its anti-inflammatory qualities render a soothing effect on the stomach lining and strengthens the digestive system.
Chewing on a twig of licorice is helpful in relieving heartburn and cough. You can also have licorice tea by making a concoction of licorice and honey in boiling water.
3. Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
This mild herb is a popular garnish in Indian cooking. Several antibacterial essential oils (linalool, geraniol, coriandrol, terpenes and borneol) present in coriander seeds help in stimulating stomach acids, which helps in eliminating heart burn. Coriander seeds also have anti-spasm qualities and provide relief in stomach cramps as well.
Parsley, another herb frequently used for indigestion is a close look-alike of coriander. Parsley is an excellent source of anti-oxidants, vitamins A & C and folic acid. It’s anti-inflammatory action helps soothe the abrasion in the food pipe and relaxes the stomach lining.
Roasted or ground coriander seeds can be added as a spice in curries or boiled with water and taken as medicine. Parsley can be added to food while cooking or can be taken in the form of parsley tea.
4. Bishop’s weed (Carum copticum)
Known to most people as ajwain, Bishop’s weed does not need an introduction. It is a common practice in Indian households to consume ajwain and salt during stomach pain, acidity and indigestion. A herb with strong and pungent flavor, it provides relief from abdominal discomfort, stomach ache, gas, acidity and heartburn.
Ajwain seeds boiled in water renders a calming effect on the stomach. It is also frequently added to curries and vegetarian dishes made from gas causing foods such as kidney beans, green beans, cauliflower and fried snacks.
5. Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis)
In Ayurveda, taking aloe vera juice on an empty stomach is recommended for removal of toxins from the digestive system. Aloe vera enhances digestion and prevents acidity and heartburn. Its alkaline nature helps in neutralizing gastric acids and provides relief from heartburn and acid reflux.
Aloe vera juice or gel can be taken first thing in the morning or at night before sleeping for indigestion, skin disorders and any inflammatory conditions.
Along with these herbs, certain fruits and vegetables such as banana, apple, carrots and celery juice are also helpful in acid reflux.
Simple Tips to Avoid Heartburn
Identify the triggers – Some foods like chocolates, fried foods, citrus foods, vinegar, tomatoes, coffee or onions may trigger heartburn or acid reflux. If you are not sure what gives you heartburn, try and keep a note of the food items that you ate just before an incidence. This will help you in identifying and avoiding foods which that cause heartburn.
Avoid going to bed on a full stomach – It is advisable to eat 2-3 hours before bed time so that your body gets time to digest your last meal. Undigested food is a major cause of acidity and heartburn.
Eat small, frequent meals – If you suffer from heartburn frequently, try to take small frequent meals, this may avoid over production of acid in the stomach.
Quit Smoking – Smoking weakens the esophagus muscles, allowing stomach acids to move backwards into the food pipe.
Drink warm water – Warm water or herbal tea post meals supports digestion and helps flush out any excessive stomach acids.
Chewing gum – If nothing is handy and you are out somewhere, chewing gum may provide short term relief as it produces saliva which in turn can dilute and flush out stomach acid.