12 Natural Remedies For Acid Reflux

natural remedies for acid reflux

Surely we’re all familiar with the signs of acid reflux, one symptom of which is that horrible niggly pain in the middle of your chest called heartburn.  In fact in the US acid reflux is so common it’s thought to affect around half the population!

Hopefully for most of us acid reflux is an occasional inconvenience, but for many it can be a chronic condition known as GERD (Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease).  In the longer term, continued acid reflux and GERD can lead to the formation of gastric ulcers and also increase the risk of stomach cancer.  So it’s really important we find gentle ways to treat the problem and look after our digestion better.

What causes acid reflux?

Traditionally, acid reflux and heartburn is blamed on ‘excess stomach acid’ and simply treated with antacids or PPI drugs (proton pump inhibitors like omeprazole).  The problem with these treatments is they’re pretty much just a sticking plaster and don’t tackle any underlying causes.  Root causes include the following, often in combination:

  • Helicobacter pylori infection – Infection with the bacteria H. pylori is estimated to affect over half the world’s population.  H. pylori damages the gastric mucosa in a number of different ways and changes its whole physiology [1c].  It also produces toxic substances like ammonia, which is one of the biggest causes of stomach ulcers [1d].
  • Hiatus hernia [1b] – a condition where a small part of the stomach pops up through a hole in the diaphragm.
  • Side effects of other pharmaceutical drugs – antiobiotics, anti-depressants, pain relievers, blood pressure medication, etc, can all damage the gastro-intestinal tract and cause gut-related side effects.
  • General poor diet and poor gut health – poor quality, highly-processed diets increase the chances of acid reflux and GERD.  Fried foods, trans fats, soft drinks, alchohol, etc are all reflux-triggering [1e].

The worst part of just using antacids and PPI drugs to treat these conditions, is they can create more side effects and complications, without ever solving the original problem.  This is why its so important to look at natural remedies for acid reflux and treat the condition from a much wider perspective.

12 Natural Remedies For Acid Reflux

1  Aloe Vera Juice And Gel

In various studies aloe vera shows great promise in improving digestion and treating stomach ulcers.  Aloe has been found to inhibit growth of H. pylori and provide protection to the cells of the stomach lining [1e].  Aloe also has the ability to lower secretion of gastric acid, which is useful in situations where there are ulcers, damage and inflammation [1f][1g].

A randomised, controlled trial in 2015 showed that aloe provided safe and effective treatment against all key symptoms of GERD, including heartburn, acid regurgitation, dysphagia and belching [1h].  This makes it one of the most useful natural remedies for acid reflux.

2  Vitamin D3

Vitamin D3 has so many important parts to play in health and immune function it is a key supplement to consider for almost every health condition and disease.  Amongst it’s many benefits, it’s been found to help rebalance the microbiome in the upper gastrointestinal tract (including the stomach and the duodenum), decreasing levels of the more pathogenic bacterial species such as Pseudomonas and Escherichia [2].

3  Melatonin

Within the body, melatonin is a hormone which regulate the cycles of sleeping and waking, and it has long been known to be produced by the pineal gland.  However, more recent studies have found that it’s also excreted by cells in the gut mucosa, where it appears to play an important protective role [3].

Several trials have shown evidence of its protective effect on the oesaphagus during GERD.  In a 2008 case, a woman with GERD was successfully treated with a dose of 6mg melatonin and all her symptoms resolved even when PPI drugs (omeprazole) were withdrawn from her treatment [3a].

4  Quince

The humble quince (Cydonia oblonga) is reported as having many anti-ulcerative effects in studies.  Quince extracts have been found to lower stomach acidity and related inflammation, as well as improve protection of the gastric lining [4a].

5  Myrtle

Common myrtle (Myrtus communis) is another innocuous plant which offers surprising gastro-protective benefits.  In an analysis of 22 different studies looking at GERD-reducing medicinal plants, both myrtle and quince showed the greatest reduction in GERD symptoms, even in comparison to the pharmaceutical drug omeprazole [5].

6  Slippery Elm

Slippery elm (Ulmus fulva) is a traditional herbal remedy of Native Americans, and is often used to ease digestive complaints and symptoms.  The bark of the tree contains a special mucilaginous compound which can coat mucosa and produce an acid-protective layer.  It also has demulcent properties, meaning it can soothe inflamed, irritated membranes. This may make it especially beneficial for ulcer formation and the discomfort associated with excess stomach acidity [6].

7 Fresh Ginger

Ginger is an ancient indigestion remedy with a longstanding reputation for soothing the gut, so it’s no surprise to find it on our list of natural remedies for acid reflux.  Amongst its many benefits ginger has been shown to prevent gastric ulcers caused by drugs, toxins and stress, as well as by H. pylori bacteria [2].  And ginger also inhibits delayed gastric emptying (DGE), which is a process that can exacerbate acid reflux [7a][7b].

8  Astaxanthin

Astaxanthin is a carotenoid pigment sometimes called ‘the king of carotenoids’ because of its powerful antioxidant benefits.  In trials, astaxanthin has been shown to provide significent gut-protective effects, reducing ulcer formation and increasing the activity of free-radical scavenging enzymes.

A study in 2005, found that treatment with astaxanthin led to almost complete healing of a gastric lesion [8].  While another trial compared its marked gastroprotective effects with that of the anti-ulcer drug omeprazole [8a].

9  Folate (Vitamin B9)

Vitamin B9 is also known as folate, (the artificial version of which is folic acid).  Deficiencies in levels of B vitamins and especially folate, have been found to increase the risk of developing gut-related diseases such as oesophageal carcinoma, Barrett’s oesophagus and reflux oesophagitis [9].

10  Glutamine

When looking at natural remedies for acid reflux, glutamine is key because it’s such an important nutrient for gut health.  Many scientific studies have shown its healing effect on the gut lining and the way it improves intestinal barrier function [10].

But in the stomach, glutamine also provides a protective effect against the harmful ammonia which is produced by H. pylori, reducing the damage it causes to the mucosal lining [10a].  This makes glutamine a great option for managing H. pylori-induced stomach conditions.

11  Probiotics

Nurturing the populations of good bacteria in your gut, helps to boost your microbiome, improve your overall gut health and your immune function.  Your levels of good bacteria are constantly under attack from factors such as chemicals in processed foods, refined sugar, grains, toxins, medication and stress.

By taking a daily probiotic you regularly top up and rebalance your microbiome, helping to reduce numbers of bad microflora such as H. pylori and candida.  In fact probiotics are essential for treating not only gut-related conditions, but many wider health problems too.

If you’re new to probiotics take a read of my post The Best UK Probiotics Supplement to learn how to choose a good supplement.

12 Fermented Foods

Sauerkraut, kefir, live cultured yoghurt, kimchi – all great examples of probiotic-rich fermented foods which contain naturally high levels of good bacteria.  Fermented foods are another awesome way of getting probiotics into your body and boosting your microbiome.  They also have the huge added benefit of containing heaps of other healing nutrients as well.

For lots more on fermented foods read 5 Fantastic Probiotics Foods For Gut Health.

As well as a recipe for homemade sauerkraut – Simple And Delicious Pink Sauerkraut.

Other Changes To Make To Improve Acid Reflux

As well as each of these natural remedies for acid reflux, there are also small lifestyle tweaks you can make to help ease your symptoms…

  • Try sleeping on your left side –  Because of the specific shape of your stomach, when you lie on your left side your sphincter ends up in a better position and it’s harder for acid to move past it into your oesaphagus.
  • Eat little and often –  When you eat smaller more frequent meals, you don’t overload and stretch the stomach with food, and you make digestion a much easier, more efficient process.  And in studies irregular dietary habits possessed a strong correlation with GERD [13].
  • Limit bending over – If you’re prone to acid reflux, frequent bending down or bending over will make it even easier for stomach acid to push past your sphincter into your oesaphagus.  This is especially true after meals.
  • Stop smoking – Just another one of a million reasons to quit smoking.  The nicotine in cigarettes encourages your sphincter to relax and leads to rising stomach acid.  Studies show that quitting smoking leads to an improvment in GERD and related symptoms [14].

If you can recommend other natural remedies for acid reflux and GERD, or other lifestyle adjustments that help with symptoms, please get in touch in the comments.

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