Natural Ways to Turn Down the Heat

By Celia Shatzman

The holidays are always a good excuse to indulge in unhealthy foods—so it’s no surprise that a recent survey from The National Heartburn Alliance found that 37 percent of adults say they’re more likely to suffer from heartburn during this season than any other time of year.

Heartburn occurs when harsh, irritating stomach juices come in contact with the delicate lining of the esophagus, which connects the mouth to the stomach. While your first reaction may be to reach for antacids, Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD, associate professor of complementary and alternative medicine at Georgetown University, offers these alternatives:

* Keep a food diary. It’ll help you determine if specific foods trigger your heartburn.
* Don’t eat before bedtime. Finish eating two to three hours before you lie down to give gastric contents time to empty into theintestinal tract. Also, prop your head up with extra pillows: sleeping flat on your back can lead to acid backflow.
* Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and peppermint. Caffeine increases acid secretion, while alcohol and peppermint relax muscles between the stomach and esophagus, making it easier for acid to creep back up.
* Avoid dairy. Milk is one of the most acid-producing foods.
* Get your calcium. It neutralizes hydrochloric acids in the stomach. Take 500 mg with lunch and dinner.
* Take magnesium. This mineral neutralizes acids in the digestive tract. Take 300 to 400 mg daily.
* Try apple-cider vinegar. Mix 1 teaspoon into a half-full glass of water, and sip during each meal. Heartburn often occurs because we don’t produce enough stomach acid, and the “good” acid in apple-cider vinegar can rectify that.