Can milk help soothe heartburn?

Milk as a remedy for heartburn – is it fact or fiction?

Nutritional Practitioner, BA (Hons), DN, DNT (Distinction)
Ask Ali

13 August 2016

Why is milk a supposed remedy for heartburn?

So, why is milk considered to be a useful remedy for heartburn? In the presence of supposed excess stomach acid (this isn’t always the case as I will go on to discuss later) milk is assumed to have a neutralising effect.

Hydrochloric acid combines with other substances to make up your stomach acid. Stomach acid has a pH which can range from 1-3, so we can safely say it is strongly acidic.

Your stomach has a protective mucous layer which acts as a barrier against the erosive effects of your stomach acid; however, your oesophagus isn’t so lucky – if stomach acid splashes back up into your gullet – known as acid reflux – you are likely to feel the intense, burning sensation you know as heartburn.

Heartburn can be so painful many people do actually mistake it for a problem with their heart! This can be distressing, so effective home remedies are in high demand.

Milk is presumed to be alkaline, although it actually comes in at between pH 6.5 and 6.7 which makes it slightly acidic Therefore, it can neutralize stomach acid to some degree but not as much as you might assume.

What must be taken into consideration though is that although milk may be more alkaline than stomach acid, the composition of the milk itself makes it acid-producing. Yikes!

Milk is rich in both saturated fat and protein which stimulate the release of hydrochloric acid from parietal cells in the gastric glands of the stomach. Foods high in fat also delay stomach emptying and cause the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS) to relax; a combination of which can result in indigestion and heartburn.

Stomach acid is also important for the activation of pepsin, an enzyme responsible for breaking down protein. Therefore, in the presence of protein in the stomach, the inactive form of pepsin (pepsinogen) and stomach acid are released together. More acid is required!

So, what are my thoughts on milk for soothing heartburn? Yes, perhaps it is possible that milk could offer some sort of short-lived relief of heartburn, but, realistically in the long-term, it is likely it could actually be making your problem worse.

What other food or drinks should you consider avoiding?

If milk isn’t the ideal remedy for your heartburn due to its composition, are there any other foods or drinks out there to be aware of that could be adding to the misery?

Well, as previously mentioned, overly fatty foods, dense animal proteins, not to mention, particularly large portions can all overburden your digestive system, cause delayed gastric emptying, trigger an increase in gastric secretions and can affect the pressure inside your tummy... is that all!? All of these factors make heartburn a more likely outcome.

Acidic foods and drinks could make your symptoms worse in some cases too, especially if you have excess stomach acid. Keep an eye on how you react to citrus fruits and juices, and tomato-based products. However, it is important to consider that you might not have enough stomach acid rather than too much as this can give rise to heartburn too. If this is the case you may find taking a spoonful of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar can HELP your symptoms, incredible!

It really is all down to you to try and understand your body. Okay, so there are a few foods out there which may exacerbate your symptoms (although different foods can affect different people so this isn’t clear-cut) and generally processed foods, alcohol and caffeine are common triggers to be aware of. Try and avoid these whenever possible for a happier tum.

The importance of good eating habits

Ok, so there is some debate as to whether or not milk can really help to ease heartburn, the simple answer being: it probably won’t help very much.

Moving on, I would now like you to think about how you eat and drink rather than what food choices you are making. Your eating habits could be the key to sorting out your iffy digestion once and for all. Click the above link to read my tip tops on how to approach meal time.

Are there any natural remedies for heartburn?

In the meantime, there are some natural remedies available which may help to ease your heartburn:

So, relying on milk to ease your heartburn could be a thing of the past. Instead, begin to understand how your stomach operates, the importance of not only what you eat but also how you eat and, with the help of some natural remedies, you can begin to say goodbye to those pesky symptoms.

Digestisan - Oral drops for indigestion


£ 10.85

find your local stockist

To relieve indigestion and flatulence. Also available in 50ml size. Fresh herb tincture.
More info

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As the A. Vogel Digestion advisor, I recommend Digestisan with extracts of Artichoke and Peppermint, to help ease symptoms of acid reflux.

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Did you know?

Acid reflux at night is an all-too-common problem, contributing to an estimated 7% of sleepless nights, which can lead to fatigue, increased anxiety or concentration lapses the following day.

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