Healthy Q & A: Natural Remedies for Indigestion and Heartburn

Q: I have problems with indigestion and heartburn a few times a week.  I usually just take an antacid (although sometimes it doesn’t really fix it).  Recently I read that antacids were not really great to take.  Is there anything you would suggest as an alternative?

A:  Heartburn and indigestion can be an uncomfortable thing to deal with.  Antacids would not really be something I’d recommend, however, since there are a number of other things which would probably work better and be healthier as well.

The first thing I’d say is that for most people who take antacids, they are not taking one or two, but closer to a handful to quell their symptoms.  The trouble with this is that excess calcium is not a good thing (antacids are usually made from calcium carbonate).  The body can only absorb about 500mg of calcium at one time, so taking more than that at a time can raise blood calcium levels, and when taken at excessive dosages on a regular basis can lead to kidney stones, arterial calcification, and more.

Next, it’s interesting to note that in many cases, indigestion and even heartburn is caused by a lack of stomach acid, rather than an excess like it may seem.  Hydrochloric acid (HCL) is produced in the stomach and is needed for the proper digestion of food.  With age, the amount of HCL present in the body decreases.  There is an easy test to see if your indigestion and heartburn caused by not enough HCL; next time you have digestive troubles, try taking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice mixed with some water.  If it makes the indigestion go away, you need more stomach acid.  If it makes your symptoms worse, then take care to avoid supplements which contain HCL.  If it does help, taking apple cider vinegar with meals would be a good idea to enhance digestion- I would particularly recommend Bragg’s apple cider vinegar- it’s the best apple cider vinegar I’ve ever used. 

Digestive enzymes would also be a good idea.  Digestive enzymes help the body to break down food more easily.  Both our bodies and the foods we eat contain enzymes, though our body’s own natural enzymes decrease with age, and cooking food, as well as storage methods of our groceries, reduce those enzymes further.  Supplementing with digestive enzymes at meals will just help the body to digest foods easier, helping to prevent both indigestion and heartburn. 

People who have frequent indigestion or heartburn will often take digestive enzymes with each meal.  Other people, myself included, will take them only as needed, e.g., when you eat a meal at a restaurant and you know you’ve overdone it.  In a case like that, digestive enzymes can just give your body the boost it needs to digest the rock in your stomach.  We also have digestive enzymes available that contain additional HCL for people with low stomach acid.

Aloe vera juice is another supplement which can help with heartburn as well as a variety of other digestive problems.  Aloe is very calming and healing to the digestive tract, and for many people, taking ¼ cup morning and night can relieve a host of digestive issues.

The last supplement I’d recommend is actually called, “Stop Acid Reflux” by Caleb Treeze.  It’s a mix of apple cider vinegar, ginger, and garlic (which I know sounds kind of awful, but it’s actually a refreshing taste) that is said to stop acid reflux in 60 seconds.  I’ve used it and was amazed how well it worked. 

Finally, if your heartburn persists or grows worse, be sure to speak with your doctor to rule out any more serious problems.