9 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Heartburn Fast at Night — So You Wake Up Happy

Heartburn during the day is bad enough. But come nighttime, that burning sensation can leave you tossing and turning. Not only do you have to deal with the discomfort, you’re often robbed of restful sleep, too. And while drugstore meds help, they can have unpleasant side effects including headaches, nausea and dizziness. That’s why we turned to the experts to find out how to get rid of heartburn fast at night. Read on to learn the natural strategies that help you leave reflux behind and get your best sleep yet!

Understanding what causes heartburn

Heartburn, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), occurs when stomach acid backs up the esophagus, the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. The result is a burning ache in the chest, typically behind the breastbone. Occasional heartburn is common: More than 60 million Americans experience flare ups at least once a month.

Heartburn is most often triggered by rich, acidic or spicy foods that cause the overproduction of stomach acid. Poor digestion is another common trigger for reflux. “Stomach acid causes symptoms when the food is sitting in the stomach for too long undigested,” explains Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, author of the bestselling From Fatigued to Fantastic. Even extra abdominal pressure from overeating or pregnancy can push acid up the esophagus. Finally, irritation of the stomach wall, which can cause a burning sensation in your upper abdomen, could also be to blame. (Click through if heartburn makes you cough to learn more.)

Heartburn, or GERD, flaring up at night

Why heartburn gets worse at night

Many people report their heartburn symptoms flare up when they hop into bed for the night. The reason: “It’s all about gravity,” says Dr. Teitelbaum. “Your stomach is built like a tank with a lining that protects it from acid.” During the day when you’re more upright, gravity helps food and liquids move down your esophagus to your stomach where they start to be digested. But when you lie down at night, it’s easier for the acid to flow back up into the esophagus.

“The food pipe doesn’t have the same protection as the stomach against acid, so even a little acid squirting up into the food pipe can cause reflux,” adds Dr. Teitelbaum. Another hitch: You swallow less frequently while you sleep. And swallowing helps push stomach acid back down into the stomach where it belongs.

Why you should skip PPIs if possible

There are dozens of over-the-counter remedies that help tame heartburn symptoms. But Dr. Teitelbaum says that people should avoid taking proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid. These medications help shut down pumps in the stomach that produce excess acid. “They’re highly addictive,” Dr. Teitelbaum explains. “And they can increase your risk for Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis" when taken long term, he cautions.

Drugstore antacids like Pepcid and Rolaids are usually okay to use in the evenings. These work by neutralizing acid in the stomach. “You don’t need stomach acid at night if you’re not eating,” explains Dr. Teitelbaum. “So you can knock down that stomach acid at night, and you’ll be perfectly fine. But I don’t advise taking drugstore antacids during the day, since you’ll need that stomach acid to process food.” While these drugstore choices don't carry with them the potential risks that PPIs do, they are chock-full of chemicals that you're likely better off without.

9 natural ways to get rid of heartburn fast at night

If heartburn has been keeping you up at night, you can find relief without the side effects of OTC meds. Here, the best study-backed options to try before bed:

1. Make popcorn your evening snack

Like to have a little nosh after dinner? Opt for popcorn instead of potato chips. A study in Food & Nutrition Research suggests the fiber in whole grains mops up stomach acid, cutting heartburn flares by 50%. What’s more, a separate study in the World Journal of Gastroenterology reveals that a fiber-rich diet improves muscle movement in the digestive tract, reducing reflux up to 53%. Another way to up your fiber intake: Swap out white bread for seven-grain, or trade traditional white pasta for whole wheat. (Click through to see more high-fiber foods that aid digestion.)

Popcorn to help get rid of heartburn at night
virtu studio/Shutterstock

2. Chew sugar-free gum after eating

After dinner or a late-night snack, grab a stick of your favorite sugar-free chewing gum. It can help quash heartburn symptoms by 78% if you chew it for 30 minutes after a meal, according to a study in the Journal of Dental Research. Scientists say it as much as doubles your saliva production. That's key, since saliva helps wash acid out of the esophagus and back into the stomach. “And getting into the habit of chewing well is also beneficial for digestion,” adds Dr. Teitelbaum. (Click through to see more health benefits of chewing gum.)

3. Take a slow, deep breath

Research out of the Mayo Clinic found that just 15 minutes of deep, diaphragmatic breathing after eating lowers your risk of heartburn by 88%. It strengthens the lower esophageal sphincter, a muscular valve at the base of the esophagus that keeps stomach acid from flowing upwards. What’s more, practicing deep breathing daily for 30 minutes, even if you’re not experiencing heartburn right now, can cut your need for heartburn medication by 75% in the future. (Click through to see how deep breathing also increases your metabolism.)

4. Pour yourself another glass of H2O

People with chronic heartburn and reflux tend to have a higher gastric pH than those who don't experience reflux. That's a problem, since a too-high pH level can overly relax the lower esophageal sphincter that helps keep stomach acid in place. Plus it can delay stomach emptying, giving gastric acid more of an opportunity to creep up into your esophagus.

And while medications can be effective at balancing your body's pH in long term, drinking a glass of water can provide quick (and free!) relief. A study published in the journal Digestive Diseases and Sciences revealed that sipping water makes stomach acid less acidic in 1 minute. That's compared to some over-the-counter antacids and prescription medications, which can take nearly three hours to relieve heartburn. (Click through to see how a cool glass of water tones your vagus nerve, undoing the toll chronic stress takes on your body.)

5. Consider a sleep supplement

Sure, you likely know melatonin as the natural hormone that helps you clock a sound night's sleep. But it also can tame heartburn. A study in BMC Gastroenterology found that 100% of people who took 3 mg of melatonin nightly eased symptoms in three weeks and eliminated heartburn entirely after eight weeks. "Melatonin helps strengthen the valve that keeps stomach acid from rising up into the throat," explains Heather Moday, MD, founder of the Moday Center in Philadelphia. She advises taking 1 mg. of melatonin about 30 minutes before bed. If that doesn't help, she suggests slowly increasing your dose to 3 mg. “I take it myself,” adds Dr. Teitelbaum, who recommends the strategy to help you both fall asleep and stay asleep.

6. Try a citrus extract

Research shows D-limonene, a supplement made from citrus peel, may help ease heartburn for 89% of people. The extract forms a shield that blocks gastric acid from flowing into the esophagus, which is especially key when you’re sleeping. Experts advise taking 1,000 mg. daily for three weeks to ease symptoms. One to try: Swanson Ultra D-Limonene (Buy from Amazon, $10.23) (Citrus is more than just a potent heartburn soother: Click through to discover 10 genius home uses for citrus peels.)

Getting rid of heartburn fast at night with d-limonene

7. Reach for a licorice tablet

Turns out enjoying licorice is a powerful way to keep heartburn pain at bay. “Deglycyrrhizinated licorice increases the stomach’s protective mucous lining,” explains Dr. Teitelbaum. In fact, a study in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that 96% of people who treated indigestion with deglycyrrhizinated (DGL) licorice daily eliminated their heartburn pain entirely in a month. One to try: Natural Factors DGL (Buy from iHerb.com, $13.27).

8. Try an ancient remedy

Fenugreek seeds have been a popular digestion remedy in India for centuries, and for good reason. The seeds contain a type of fiber called galactomannan. And a study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research revealed that folks who took capsules containing fenugreek fiber daily reduced the frequency and severity of their heartburn episodes by 44%. One to try: FenFIber Fenuwise (Buy from Amazon.com, $16.99) (Click through to see how fenugreek can also boost your libido and balance your blood sugar.)

9. Lift your head with pillows

When we lay down, gravity is no longer working in our favor to keep stomach acid where it belongs. But simply adjusting your sleeping position can help get rid of heartburn at night. Researchers reporting in The American Journal of Gastroenterology found that lying on your left side with your head and shoulders elevated tames heartburn pain better than other sleeping positions. Why? It better aligns your stomach to help food digest quickly and efficiently. It works so well, a study in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that 65% of people who used the strategy had fewer sleep disturbances due to reflux.

Sleep on your back? “You’ll want to be raised by about 30 degrees from the waist up,” advises Dr. Teitelbaum. Elevating your upper torso gives gravity more of a chance to help stomach acids flow downward. Simply tuck a few extra pillows under your head to reach the desired position.

Read on to discover sneaky heartburn triggers — and how to outsmart them:

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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