Supplements and herbs for GERD 

Nearly one-third of the world population experience heartburn, which is a common symptom of GERD. Fortunately, some supplements and herbs may help treat GERD.

Three plates containing different supplement pills

Key takeaways:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease is the frequent flow of stomach acid up the esophagus.
  • Supplements such as melatonin, magnesium, and betaine hydrochloride may be useful in relieving GERD symptoms.
  • Some natural herbs have also been found to be effective against GERD. 

If you've ever had a meal and felt a burning sensation or pain in your chest area, it could be due to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition that causes the flow of stomach acid back up the esophagus. GERD is a digestive system condition that affects millions of people worldwide.

GERD is caused by a weakened lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which makes it possible for stomach acid and food to flow back up into the esophagus. The lower esophageal sphincter opens up to let food move into the stomach, where it can be broken down further.

However, when the lower esophageal sphincter does not close properly, stomach acid and food can go back up the esophagus, leading to unpleasant symptoms like heartburn and chest and back pain. When this occurs frequently, healthcare experts often diagnose it as GERD.

Common symptoms of GERD include heartburn and regurgitation or vomiting.

In this article, we'll discuss how to use supplements to treat GERD. We will also look at the possibility of treating and relieving GERD symptoms with some herbs.

Best supplements for treating GERD

A supplement is a product meant to provide additional nutrients to the body. Supplements are meant to support the nutrients we get from food and may help treat or relieve the symptoms of some medical conditions.

Supplements may be useful in treating GERD as they help relieve acid reflux symptoms by:

  • Improving gut function
  • Reducing stomach acid production rate
  • Protecting delicate tissues from damage

Here are some supplements that may help manage GERD:

1. Magnesium

This is an important mineral and component of the body. It is needed for the efficient running of the body's systems.

Magnesium supplements may help to relieve GERD by regulating the movement of the pyloric sphincter, which is a valve between the stomach and the small intestine.

This valve is important as it allows food from the stomach to enter the small intestine for further digestion. When foods move fast into the small intestine, it reduces the amount of food in the stomach, thereby reducing the chances of stomach content and acid flowing back into the esophagus.

Magnesium can also act to neutralize the gastric acid present in the stomach. In this way, the acid does not erode and damage the lining of the esophagus. It also helps provide relief from acid reflux symptoms.

2. Melatonin

Melatonin may also be a helpful supplement for GERD. This natural body hormone regulates your body's natural clock and helps you sleep when it is dark. It can also be produced artificially with the use of microorganisms.

Melatonin increases blood flow to the esophagus, helping repair damaged esophageal mucosa. Scientific studies have shown the effectiveness of melatonin in treating GERD.It strengthens the barrier between the stomach and esophagus, preventing acid reflux.

3. Ginger

This is a common spice that is popular for its use in the preparation of meals. It can be taken in the form of a supplement.

Ginger is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Since GERD commonly presents with inflammatory signs, such as swelling, taking ginger, whether as food or a supplement, may help relieve such symptoms. 

It also reduces the pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter by helping with faster food digestion.

4. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice

Licorice is an aromatic spice used in candy production and for treating different health conditions.

Even though licorice is useful, its active ingredient, glycyrrhizin, could cause dangerous side effects like heart disease and high blood pressure.

To prevent such side effects while also maximizing the potential benefits of licorice, the active ingredient, glycyrrhizin is extracted from licorice. This leaves out a form of a supplement called Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL).

How does DGL work? 

Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) does not suppress gastric acid production. Instead, it encourages the healing of the mucous membrane damaged by GERD.This indicates DGL may be a great supplement for treating GERD.

5. Aloe vera

This well-known plant has healing properties and is especially helpful when applied to the skin in the form of ointments and creams. It may also be available as a supplement in oral capsules.  

Some research studies have also indicated that aloe vera relieves GERD symptoms by reducing inflammation in the esophagus.

6. Betaine Hydrochloride

Derived from a mixture of hydrochloric acid and betaine, betaine hydrochloride works by adding extra hydrochloride to the gastric tract to increase the stomach's acidity. The idea is to ensure total digestion of food particles, reducing the chances of GERD. This may be particularly helpful for people with low stomach acid.

Your stomach needs a certain level of acid for adequate digestion. When the stomach acid level is below the needed amount, digestion may slow down, increasing the risk of acid reflux.

Betaine hydrochloride, taken as a supplement, may help treat GERD by maintaining the necessary stomach acid level for proper digestion. However, it is very important to speak with your doctor before trying this supplement. Betaine hydrochloride is not for everyone and may worsen or cause digestive system problems in some people.

7. Probiotics

Probiotics is perhaps one of the best supplements that may work for GERD. Probiotics are live microorganisms such as lactobacillus that are beneficial to the body, especially to the digestive tract. Probiotics are often sold as supplements and are available in various forms.

They are useful in emptying the stomach, which helps prevent the flow of acid back into the esophagus.

Studies have indicated that probiotic supplements may help relieve GERD symptoms and are also useful in treating some other gastrointestinal conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

Herbs for Treating Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Herbs are plants that are useful for various purposes, including medicinal purposes.

Herbs are used medicinally to maintain good health or treat some health conditions, and it is no surprise that some supplements are made from herbs. 

Some herbs that may help treat GERD or aid reflux symptoms include:

1. Turmeric

This popular herb contains an active ingredient, curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties alongside other antioxidant compounds.

In a 2019 review of studies that focused on the therapeutic effects of curcumin on the upper gastrointestinal tract, it was found that the herbal ingredient has protective properties and can help treat GERD.

Though turmeric is an important herb, it is best used moderately, as long-term use could lead to headaches and diarrhea.

Taking turmeric with blood thinning drugs is NOT advisable as it's a natural blood thinner.

2. Chamomile

Commonly used to make tea, chamomile has been found to be medicinally effective, and just like other herbs and supplements for GERD, it has anti-inflammatory properties. 

Combined with other herbs like licorice and peppermint, chamomile reduced acid levels in the stomach.

Interestingly, chamomile has multiple medicinal uses ranging from helping treat the common cold to treating cancer, making chamomile an extremely valuable herb.

Chamomile could lead to drowsiness, so it is advisable not to engage in important tasks, such as driving while taking it.

3. Slippery Elm

With a slippery inner tree bark, the slippery elm is rightly named.

This herb works by soothing the mucous membrane of the stomach, improving digestion, and ensuring easy removal of waste from the body.

Slippery elm is available in tablet and powder form and can be easily used to prepare tea. 

4. Peppermint oil

Peppermint oil is obtained from the peppermint plant. It is used as a flavoring and as a digestive agent. It is also medically known for relaxing the body's muscles. 

This properties makes peppermint oil controversial when it comes to GERD treatment.

When used incorrectly, peppermint oil can potentially worsen GERD symptoms because it can relax the lower esophageal sphincter and allow backflow of stomach content into the esophagus. But used rightly, it may help relieve bloating, improve digestion, and aid waste removal.

Due to its unique nature, peppermint oil is better used as a preventive health measure.

5. Dandelion

Originally from Asia but able to grow anywhere, dandelion is a herb known for treating different diseases, some of which include gastrointestinal diseases.

This ability to treat various diseases is because dandelions have multiple healing properties, ranging from anti-inflammatory to diuretic and even laxative properties.

It helps prevent acid reflux and GERD by subduing the compounds responsible for inflammation.

Wrap up

GERD is a chronic disease. However, it is very much treatable. If diagnosed on time, doctors may recommend over-the-counter medications like antacids along with dietary and lifestyle measures to treat the condition.

Some studies have also indicated that herbs and supplements may help manage GERD. However, it is advisable to seek a doctor's opinion before using herbs and supplements. If it's a severe case of GERD, the doctor may recommend prescription medications instead to treat the condition as well as prevent damage to the esophagus.


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