Does milk help heartburn or does it make it worse has been a raging debate for a long time. This has probably got to do with the varying results obtained from different patient’s experiences. Heartburn is a common digestive tract condition that affects millions of Americans. Typically, it manifests as a burning sensation in the esophagus that moves up the throat. The burning pain gets worse when one lies down or bends forward. Many people have been raised to believe that milk can help soothe this discomfort. However, there are those who do not hold this view and claim that it actually worsens the condition.
Heartburn is caused by overeating fatty or acidic foods, aspirin medication, over indulgence in alcohol, smoking and eating too many citrus foods. It is also triggered by pregnancy, obesity, stress and emotional turmoil.
One time attacks are usually attributed to certain meals or habits. However frequent heartburn is always a source of distress to the sufferer. This is normally associated with gastro-esophageal reflux. This is a condition whereby stomach fluid containing acid and digestive enzymes flows upwards past the sphincter valves into the esophagus. Different people react differently to heartburn. There are many home based solutions that are known to work; one of which is taking a glass of milk.
According to the proponents of this remedy, it has been used since time immemorial to stop the condition. However, it has been proven that back in those days, milk was truly milk. It was fresh and pure, straight from the cow’s udder complete with natural bacteria and other nutrients. Today, this product is pasteurized, homogenized, fortified and enriched with vitamins and other nutrients and hence can do little to counter the acidic environment of the stomach. Other proponents have wrongly suggested that milk is actually alkaline and will therefore help in neutralizing stomach acid. This is scientifically incorrect since milk is actually acidic with a PH value of 6.2-6.8. Hence, using it to soothe heartburn is in essence using an acid to neutralize another acid.
Even the proponents of milk as an analgesic however agree that a product with high fatty content cannot work to relieve this condition. Fatty or creamy milk has high lactic acid content and can cause further inflammation to the stomach. In fact, having milk as part of lunch or dinner can aggravate heartburn among patients. This is because it contains calcium and proteins which stimulate acid production. The most popular treatments for heartburn are over the counter antacids. These are usually sold as tablets (Tums), syrups, foams and effervescent formulations. Most of these medicines contain magnesium, aluminum hydroxide, sodium bicarbonate and calcium carbonate as the active ingredient. You must however exercise caution before using these pills since they are contra-indicated against certain diseases.
Those who suffer from frequent attacks must visit a doctor to get a clear diagnosis and line of treatment. Such patients are normally given acid blockers that tackle the problem from the source. There are several acid blockers that are nowadays sold over the counter, but these must also be taken cautiously. If you are wondering does milk help heartburn or not? You are better advised to take water before meals. This will help in hydrating the upper parts of the esophagus and prevent incidences of heartburn.