Doctors have been writing about treating heartburn for most of recorded history. In 400 B.C. the Greek physician Hippocrates noted that eating cheese after a meal could cause indigestion and discomfort, especially if accompanied by wine. Apparently Europeans were already enjoying that habit if they didn’t suffer reflux. Heartburn, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can have serious consequences and should not be ignored. Drugs that doctors prescribe for the condition can be very difficult to discontinue, however, and have potential side effects. We’re not convinced that they are always better than home remedies.
I have been suffering from GERD for a number of years. I took Zantac for it. But recently, I went to a dinner party. When dinner was over, the hostess passed around a dish of raw almonds. I asked her what they were for, and she said, “To prevent heartburn.” She is a pharmacist, so I asked her how it works. She didn’t really know, but she said that four or five almonds after a meal would help. I gave it a try, and eating almonds after every meal seems to be working for me. I haven’t taken Zantac for the past two weeks, and I haven’t even needed much antacid. Do you know why this works?
This remedy is new to us, but it sounds safe, and almonds are one of our favorite foods. Taken in moderation, they can help lower bad cholesterol and control spikes in blood sugar. Another reader says that a bit of apple after a meal can prevent heartburn: “I have had this problem for years and recently stopped taking omeprazole so I could try to deal with this ailment in a better way. I noticed one day that food that usually gave me heartburn hadn’t and realized I had eaten an apple that day. Another time after I already had heartburn symptoms, I ate three or four bites of apple and that stopped it.”
THE PEOPLE’S PHARMACY
Favorite Food #12: Almonds
Most health-conscious people have heard that walnuts are a heart-healthy food. That’s in part because they’re rich in omega-3 fatty acids. We’re all for walnuts, but we are also quite fond of almonds.
Almonds used to suffer from a bad reputation. Many people believed they were fattening and contributed to high serum cholesterol levels. But almonds have been rehabilitated. They are rich in healthful monounsaturated fatty acids and an asset in a cholesterol-lowering dietary portfolio.
Eating nuts can help lower bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Recently investigators pooled data from 25 experimental studies carried out in 7 countries.1 They found that almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, and even peanuts help improve blood lipids. Consuming about two and a half ounces daily helped people reduce total cholesterol by almost 11 points. Bad LDL cholesterol dropped by about 10 points, and triglycerides, a measure of fat in the blood, went down by 21 points, or nearly 10 percent.
Benefits were most apparent in people with elevated levels of triglycerides or cholesterol. The more nuts people ate, the stronger the effect. Of course, nuts have calories, so overindulging can be counterproductive by leading to weight gain. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to eat nuts instead of snacks or dessert.
Studies in Canada demonstrated that adding almonds to a vegetarian diet low in fat and rich in soluble fiber can lower total and bad LDL cholesterol as much as the prescription drug lovastatin.2 An almond-rich diet also can modestly lower blood pressure.3 Eating almonds can even help prevent a post-meal spike in blood sugar. One small but well-controlled study showed that eating one, two, or three ounces of almonds with a slice of white bread reduced the rise in blood sugar produced by the white bread alone.4
I used to have very bad heartburn until I remembered a home remedy my mother used to make. I mix a couple ounces of water, an ounce of apple cider vinegar, and a teaspoon of sugar. After the sugar dissolves, I add half a teaspoon of baking soda, stir it briefly, and drink the mixture immediately. This offers fast relief.
Baking soda is a time-honored approach to neutralizing stomach acid that has splashed into the esophagus and is causing heartburn.
I have suffered from GERD for several years. One night, when dealing with a bad session, I ate a banana. I have no idea why; I certainly didn’t expect any result. Within 30 minutes, I was able to go back to sleep. Since then, whenever a bad episode of heartburn occurs, I eat one or two bites of banana and the problem goes away. Doctors have no explanation for this. Nonetheless, it works every time, and it’s not a drug. We almost always have a banana in the house.
We’re not surprised that you have found bananas helpful. Doctors in India have prescribed bananas or banana powder to treat indigestion and stomach upset from aspirin. According to a study published long ago, banana powder relieved indigestion in 75 percent of patients.1
Joe Graedon & Terry Graedon, The People’s Pharmacy: Quick & Handy Home Remedies, published by National Geographic