Pickle juice is the liquid used to turn cucumbers into pickles and then preserve them.
It typically contains water, salt, vinegar, and calcium chloride, as well as seasonings or flavorings for specific types of pickles like dill, sweet, or bread-and-butter varieties.
Some people drink pickle juice as a home remedy for treating heartburn or acid reflux, but you may wonder whether the practice is backed by science.
This article reviews whether pickle juice is a reliable way to alleviate heartburn symptoms, or if it’s more likely to cause them.
Effectiveness of pickle juice for heartburn
Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), conditions in which stomach acid is regurgitated from the stomach back into your esophagus, the opposite way it’s supposed to move through your digestive system.
It may be exacerbated by a number of things, such as different types of stress on the body, spicy or acidic foods, or overeating.
Heartburn feels like a burning, sometimes radiating, pain in your chest just behind your breastbone. It often gets worse after eating or drinking, as well as when lying down flat on your back or stomach.
The effectiveness of drinking pickle juice to relieve heartburn symptoms appears to be subjective. Some people find it helpful, while others don’t. No scientific research supports the use of pickle juice as a treatment for heartburn.
The thinking behind its use for this purpose is that pickle juice is a concentrated source of Lactobacillus, a healthy probiotic bacteria found in your gut microbiome and on the skins of cucumbers.
Consuming it is thought to help add to the existing good bacteria in your gut, calming the regurgitation of acid up through the esophagus.
However, most commercially prepared pickles have been pasteurized. This means that they have undergone a heat-based process to kill any potentially harmful bacteria before being sold to consumers.
The process of pasteurization also removes good bacteria, meaning there’s likely no active Lactobacillus left in most of the pickle juice found on store shelves.
Furthermore, while the vinegar in pickle juice may have a strong enough smell and flavor to overpower how much you notice your heartburn, this additional acidity in your digestive tract may make your heartburn symptoms worse.
What about other conditions?
Heartburn is technically a symptom of other conditions, such as acid reflux, GERD, and indigestion.
While each of these conditions has distinct characteristics, they’re all related to stomach acid moving back up through your esophagus in a way it isn’t supposed to, leading to discomfort.
As such, pickle juice isn’t likely to help alleviate these other conditions either. No research indicates that consuming pickle juice, or other acids, is an effective treatment for acid reflux, GERD, or indigestion.
You’re better off treating these conditions with the many remedies known to be more reliable.
Effective home remedies for heartburn
The use of pickle juice to alleviate heartburn symptoms appears to be subjective, with no real evidence behind it.
Here are some more reliable remedies for heartburn
- taking over-the-counter antacid medications
- avoiding lying down too soon after a meal
- keeping your head slightly elevated when going to sleep at night
- reducing your meal size to prevent overeating and indigestion
- wearing loose-fitting clothes, especially around the waist, as not to encourage acid reflux
- making dietary modifications to reduce your consumption of carbonation and acidic foods like tomatoes, citrus fruits, and vinegar
- taking other medications that may be prescribed by a healthcare provider
If you’re experiencing persistent heartburn symptoms and are unable to manage them with lifestyle changes, it’s a good idea to speak with your healthcare provider for additional direction, especially if you’re pregnant.
The bottom line
Heartburn is an uncomfortable symptom of various digestive conditions in which stomach acid moves back up into the esophagus and causes a burning sensation.
While some people report that drinking pickle juice has helped alleviate their heartburn, others have found doing so to be ineffective or even have the opposite effect, making heartburn worse.
In fact, no scientific evidence supports the use of pickle juice as a home remedy for heartburn. Other more reliable and effective treatments for heartburn include lifestyle changes, dietary modifications, and certain medications.