GERD and probiotics: does probiotics help?
In order to function optimally, the digestive system needs a system of microorganisms in the intestinal tract called the gut microbiota. Using probiotics, you can introduce live bacteria equivalent to gut microorganisms into your body. Find out how probiotics can help with acid reflux and other GERD symptoms.
- GERD is a digestive system condition that can occur when acid-containing contents in the stomach repeatedly flow back into the esophagus.
- Probiotics can help reduce GERD symptoms by speeding up the emptying of stomach content into the small intestine. In this way, it will reduce the chances of stomach content flowing back into the esophagus.
- More research needs to be carried out on how probiotics can help manage GERD. Also, while probiotics are generally safe, they may cause some side effects.
Usually, when one consumes food, it enters the stomach through a tube called the esophagus, which connects the mouth and stomach. Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. In layman's language, some people refer to this as "acid backwash."
When acid reflux occurs repeatedly and regularly, healthcare professionals diagnose it as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The backflow of gastric acid into the esophagus can cause irritation of its lining. Most people can manage this discomfort with lifestyle changes and medications. And though it's uncommon, some may need surgery to ease symptoms.
Medications that can be used to treat GERD include probiotics and antacids. In this article, we'll explain how and why probiotics can relieve acid reflux and other GERD symptoms.
How probiotics can help treat GERD
Probiotics have been shown to improve gastrointestinal homeostasis and promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms found in the gut. However, probiotic activity in the upper gastrointestinal tract, such as the esophagus is less clear.
Probiotics have been linked to changes in GERD. According to researchers:
• While GERD often causes the lower esophageal sphincter muscles to relax, probiotics can interact with stomach mucosal receptors to speed up the emptying of the stomach into the intestines.
• Since an abnormal increase in bacteria found in the small intestine can affect the movement of food in the gastrointestinal tract, taking probiotics may be beneficial in treating conditions like GERD.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that exist naturally in the body. The body has both good and bad bacteria.
Good bacteria are beneficial bacteria that are essential for survival, many of which reside in the gut (the gastrointestinal system). They help our bodies digest food and absorb nutrients, and they produce certain vitamins such as vitamin K, thiamin, and nicotinic acid in the intestinal tract.
When a pathogen infects a person, more bad bacteria gain access to their system, throwing it off balance. The good bacteria aid in the elimination of the excess bad bacteria, restoring balance.
Probiotic supplements are synthetic edibles that supplement the body with beneficial bacteria needed in the gut for the proper functioning of the digestive system. Probiotics have been shown to improve health (), particularly digestive health. They are good bacteria that inhibit the growth of bad bacteria that are harmful to the body.
Which GERD symptoms can probiotics relieve?
A systematic review published in 2020 looked into the effects of probiotics on GERD. The authors examined 13 studies, 11 of which found that probiotics could help with acid reflux. According to the study, the following are GERD symptoms that probiotics may be able to relieve:
- Reflux and heartburn
- Shortness of breath
- Decrease in regurgitation
- Gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, abdominal pain, belching, and intestinal gurgling
Is it safe to take probiotics and antacids together?
Probiotics and antacids both work in your gut. Both medications can help improve digestive system health and can be taken as pills, food, or supplements.
Antacids help relieve acid reflux and heartburn by neutralizing stomach acid. It may be okay to take them simultaneously. But, before you do, ensure you speak with your doctor and also take the medications as instructed.
Probiotics may improve the efficacy of antacids, improving indigestion symptoms. However, probiotics are best taken on their own, without any combination, for better improvement.
Side effects of probiotics
Probiotics are generally safe to take. But, as with any drug or supplement, there is always a chance that there will be side effects. People who are ill or have weakened immune systems may be especially vulnerable.
Some possible side effects of taking probiotics include:
- Bloating and discomfort
- Allergic reactions, which can be severe in rare cases
- Exposure to microorganisms not listed on the label
- Bacterial or fungal infections
- Harmful interactions with other medications
- Harm from counterfeit products
How to choose the best probiotic for GERD
When it comes to probiotic supplements, the American Gastroenterological Association recommends the following:
- Choose probiotics that list the strains of bacteria they contain.
- Purchase your probiotic supplement from a reputable company.
- Consult a doctor for advice.
- Beware of purchasing bogus probiotics online.
Other treatment options for GERD
There are numerous options for treating acid reflux. These options include:
Self-care strategies can help relieve mild-to-moderate symptoms. Your doctor may advise limiting spicy, fatty, or acidic foods. Eating more frequent small meals may be better than fewer large meals.
Other mindful practices that may help relieve your symptoms include:
- Eating a little before bed
- Elevating the head higher when sleeping
- Losing some weight if you have a higher BMI
- Quitting smoking
Doctors commonly prescribe antacids to reduce stomach acid production and alleviate some mild symptoms. When antacids fail to relieve chronic acid reflux, a doctor may prescribe these:
- H2 blockers, which also aid in the reduction of stomach acid production.
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which have a similar effect as H2 blockers and can heal the esophageal lining.
A doctor may recommend surgery for people with severe GERD who have not responded to other treatments. Some surgical procedures for treating GERD include:
- Bariatric surgery to aid weight loss
- Fundoplication. This procedure involves sewing around the top of the stomach to prevent stomach acid from leaking into the esophagus.
There are various medications that doctors commonly prescribe for treating GERD. Some evidence, though, shows that probiotics may also be a good way to treat the condition. If your symptoms worsen and the probiotic medicine isn't helping, you may need to talk to a doctor.