Recent recalls of popular heartburn medicines may have you worried about safety. Here’s how to feel better with these simple DIY options.
Colleen Travers,Jan 22, 2020 • 4 min read
If you frequently suffer from heartburn, you’re probably already aware of the ranitidine recall that happened last fall. Brand-name OTC Zantac and similar prescription generics were pulled off shelves due to the medication containing higher than recommended levels of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a possible carcinogen. But recently, additional common ranitidine-based heartburn medications have been recalled due to NDMA, including drugs made by Denton Pharma Inc. and Appco Pharma LLC.
Even if you take a ranitidine that hasn’t been recalled, you may be nervous continuing to do so. But without this medication staple, how can you find relief from those pesky and uncomfortable heartburn symptoms? It turns out a number of natural, at-home heartburn remedies are not only safe but work long-term. Read on to find out what they are so you can start adding them to your heartburn arsenal.
Specifically, a type of licorice most commonly found in chewable tablet or capsule form called deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL). This kind has had the compound glycyrrhizin removed; when taken over a lengthy period of time, the chemical has been shown to cause high blood pressure and lower potassium levels. “DGL is generally very well tolerated and much safer than proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) or ranitidine,” says Marvin Singh, M.D., an integrative gastroenterologist and founder of The Precision Clinic in Encinitas, CA. “Research has found that DGL stimulates mucus formation and secretion, which acts as a protectant to the lining of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.” A study published in the Journal of the Australian Traditional-Medicine Society also recently discovered that DGL may work better than acid-suppressive drugs designed to treat heartburn because of its ability to soothe and protect gastric mucus.
“Ginger is a prokinetic, which means it helps the stomach empty so food contents don’t stay there too long,” says Dr. Singh. “This makes it helpful in eliminating how much acid reflux a person gets by reducing the amount of time food spends in the stomach and thus, creating less stomach acid that may then flow back up into the food pipe.” (This is why ginger is often one of the ingredients in popular antacids, too.) You can get ginger in powder, capsule, oil, or tea form, or simply buy the whole root at the grocery store to incorporate into recipes, drinks, and more.
“Found as a lozenge, slippery elm is a demulcent, which means it coats the GI tract and acts like a cooling blanket,” says Dr. Singh. Slippery elm can be used not only as a proactive measure, but also at the first sign of heartburn symptoms. “It helps coat the upper esophagus and can soothe any burning feelings one might get,” says Dr. Singh.
How much should I take and for how long?
“All of these natural remedies can be taken long-term without any obvious known issues,” says Dr. Singh. “One of my mottos is that we should take as little as it takes to get the job done, so I try to stay true to that whether it is a medication, an herb, or a supplement.” Make sure to read the directions on the label for whichever natural route you choose to get the correct dosing information and double check with your doctor before you start a new treatment or change your Rx.
What else can I do to help manage my heartburn?
“Some of the best ways to ease heartburn symptoms are lifestyle changes,” says Dr. Singh. “If we can keep our weight optimal, exercise, and eat healthy foods that are rich in fiber and nutrients, this will help our overall health and symptoms.” On top of these natural remedies and lifestyle changes, you can treat heartburn with medications other than ranitidine, such as PPIs like lansoprazole (brand name Prevacid) or pantoprazole sodium (brand name Protonix) if needed. Consult your doctor to find out the best treatment options for you.
“Don’t forget to be mindful of your symptoms,” adds Dr. Singh. “If you have new onset heartburn and/or other concerning symptoms, such as difficulty or pain swallowing, you should inform your doctor. They may conclude you need an endoscopy to rule out another health issue that may be causing your symptoms.”