Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or acid reflux, is a condition that involves more than just the occasional case of heartburn. People with GERD routinely experience the upward movement of stomach acid in the esophagus. This causes people with GERD to experience:
- burning pain in the lower mid-chest or behind the breastbone
It’s important to talk to your doctor about your GERD symptoms. Untreated GERD increases the risk of developing:
- eroded tooth enamel
- changes in the lining of the esophagus
- cancer of the esophagus
Doctors may prescribe over-the-counter antacids or prescription medications to reduce stomach acid output. Some natural remedies for occasional heartburn include readily available herbs and supplements. There is limited evidence to support the use of herbs and GERD. However, you might find them helpful in combination with what your doctor recommends for GERD. You should always check with your doctor first before use.
Peppermint oil is most often found in sweets and tea leaves. However, peppermint is traditionally used for alleviating:
- stomach problems
Some research has also shown improved symptoms in people with GERD who take peppermint oil. However, it’s important that you never take antacids and peppermint oil at the same time. This can actually increase the risk for heartburn.
Ginger root is historically used for the treatment of nausea. In fact, ginger candies and ginger ale are recommended as short-term measures for pregnancy-related morning sickness or nausea. Historically, ginger has been used to treat other gastrointestinal ailments, including heartburn. It’s thought to contain anti-inflammatory properties. This may reduce overall swelling and irritation in the esophagus.
There are very few side effects associated with ginger root, unless you take too much. Taking too much ginger can actually cause heartburn.
A handful of other herbs and botanicals are traditionally used to treat GERD. Still, there is little clinical evidence to support their effectiveness. Among these are:
- garden angelica
- German chamomile flower
- greater celandine
- licorice root
- lemon balm
- milk thistle
These herbs are found in health food stores. You may be able to find them as teas, oils, or capsules. Herbs aren’t regulated by any government agency for safety or effectiveness.
Antioxidant nutrient vitamins A, C, and E are also being explored for their potential in GERD prevention. Vitamin supplements are only typically used if you don’t get enough of the nutrients from food. A blood test can help determine which nutrients your body is deficient in. Your doctor may also recommend a multi-vitamin.
Aside from herbs, certain supplements from the drugstore may also help alleviate GERD symptoms and minimize their occurrence. Melatonin is one of these supplements.
Known as the “sleep hormone,” melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland. This gland is located in the brain. Melatonin is primarily known for helping trigger changes in the brain that promote the onset of sleep.
Preliminary studies suggest that supplemental melatonin may also offer long-term relief from GERD symptoms. Still, these benefits are typically only seen when combining melatonin with other forms of reflux treatment — not just the supplement alone.
Consider Your Overall Lifestyle for Long-term Management
Some evidence suggests that herbs and supplements can affect digestive function. However, more research is needed.
It’s important to understand that herbal remedies will not counteract your underlying habits and health conditions that contribute to GERD. Such risk factors include:
- alcohol abuse
- wearing tight clothing
- laying down after eating
- consuming large meals
- eating trigger foods, such as fatty, fried items, and spices
Many of these conditions are reversible through proper diet and lifestyle modifications. However, weight loss is more likely to be effective than taking herbs and supplements for GERD alone.
Before taking any alternative remedies for acid reflux, it’s important to talk to your doctor. They will help you determine the best and most efficacious treatment for your GERD.