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Your grandma may have advised you to use yogurt as a natural heartburn remedy, but does yogurt treat acid reflux, or could it actually make your heartburn worse?

Heartburn is a very common problem — up to a fifth of the American population is frequently plagued by acid reflux [1]. If you are one of them, you may not always have antacids on hand, or you may be concerned about their long-term side effects [2].

When you are hit by yet another bout of acid reflux, you may quickly reach for some yogurt to get rid of heartburn fast and naturally. Yogurt is a popular folk remedy for heartburn, after all, and something your grandmother, auntie, or the internet may have taught you about. 

Is heartburn really a good natural remedy for heartburn, though, and something you should make a regular part of an acid reflux diet? 

What Is Yogurt, Exactly, And Why Might It Be Used As A Heartburn Remedy?

Here's what we know about the basic properties of yogurt:

  • Yogurt, or yoghurt if you're from the UK, is a dairy product that is most frequently made with cow's milk. 
  • Making yogurt requires fermentation with the lactic-acid producing bacteria Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Other probiotic bacterial strains are also sometimes added. [3
  • The probiotics found in yogurt benefit your general health, and your gastrointestinal health in particular [4]. 
  • Though yogurt is often held to "neutralize" the stomach acids that back up into your esophagus when you suffer from heartburn, as people tend to think of yogurt as alkaline, the pH value of yogurt is actually less than 7. This makes it acidic. [5]
  • Yogurt contains an awful lot of essential nutrients, including calcium, B vitamins, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. It is also often fortified with vitamin D [6]. 

Is Yogurt A Good Way To Get Rid Of Heartburn?

Research into the potential for yogurt to act as a heartburn remedy is surprisingly lacking, given that it is indeed a much-discussed folk remedy. 

The acid reflux diet generally recommended to people with frequent episodes of heartburn requires avoiding chocolate, coffee, tea, peppermint, fatty and spicy foods, tomatoes, and alcoholic drinks. Your doctor may advise you to stay away from acidic foods as well. That means that citrus fruits and an acid reflux diet do not combine well, and that you might be wise to avoid vinegar too. If you have frequent heartburn, you are advised to consume smaller meals more frequently, eat a fiber-rich diet, and include plenty of polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. [7, 8]

What's missing here? That's right! If you're considering an acid reflux diet, scientific studies neither indicate that you should stay away from yogurt — or dairy in particular for that matter — nor to use it as a means to get rid of heartburn. Since yogurt is indeed acidic, despite popular belief, you may even consider it a food to stay away from rather than one that will get rid of heartburn fast. 

It has, however, been established that low-lactose milk is better tolerated than normal cow's milk. People seeking to avoid unpleasant symptoms such as diarrhea, headaches, abdominal pain, and yes, heartburn, are better off drinking low-lactose milk than regular milk. [9] As yogurt contains less lactose than milk does, it is certainly better to consume yogurt than cow's milk if you are trying to follow an acid reflux diet

We also know that taking probiotics reduces episodes of flatulence, burping, stomach noises, abdominal pain and bloating, and acid reflux in patients who have undergone gastric bypass surgery. This may mean that probiotics, which are found in yogurt, help reduce heartburn in the general population as well [10], because probiotics produce enzymes that digest the foods we cannot, in turn promoting overall gastrointestinal health [11]. 

Furthermore, yogurt contains polyunsaturated fats, which have been shown to help reduce perceived acid reflux symptoms in people suffering from GERD, the chronic form of acid reflux [12]. 

Where Does That Leave Us? Is Yogurt A Natural Heartburn Remedy Or Not?

There is inconclusive scientific evidence to prove that yogurt is a good natural heartburn remedy, but there is also inconclusive evidence to prove that yogurt is actively bad for you if you suffer from recurrent episodes of acid reflux.

In short, that means that we're in no position to advise you to either avoid or consume yogurt, here at SteadyHealth

People with frequent episodes of heartburn are generally advised to consume too many acidic foods, which means you should avoid drinking or eating yogurt all day long. Yogurt is certainly, however, a better choice than cow's milk. 

Since there is some evidence that probiotics — which are present in yogurt — get rid of heartburn, you will want to consider taking probiotic tablets rather than consuming yogurt, as a preventative measure against heartburn rather than as a remedy to get rid of heartburn fast during acute episodes.