There are many natural remedies available for reducing symptoms of acid reflux, GERD or heartburn. Here, Dr. Brad Jacobs talks about strategies for reducing acid reflux, as well as supplements that can coat the stomach and increase tightening of the esophageal sphincter, including marshmallow root, DGL, d-Limonene and melatonin.
Acid reflux (otherwise known as heartburn) is more than just a minor health concern. People who live with chronic heartburn can experience serious discomfort, to the point that they have trouble eating and can’t sleep at night.
“There are many different causes of heartburn,” says Dr. Brad Jacobs, MD, formerly of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board. An important one to keep in mind, he says, is anxiety or stress. “That can increase your production of acid in the stomach and thus increase your chances of having heartburn.” That’s why he tells his patients experiencing heartburn to try and reduce anxiety or stress through meditation, yoga or anything else that will help calm and center them.
Different foods and eating behaviors can also aggravate heartburn. “You want to avoid things like alcohol and caffeine that can relax the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus,” says Dr. Jacobs. Other foods, such as tomatoes, can have the same effect. Because each person’s trigger foods are different, it’s a good idea to work with a health care professional to identify which foods might be causing the problem. Dr. Jacobs also encourages patients to avoid large meals toward the end of the night, since lying down on a full stomach can increase the chances of reflux.
As far as treatments, Dr. Jacobs says there are a variety of herbs and supplements to consider. Marshmallow root, for example, helps provide a coating around the stomach that limits acid reflux. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) is another helpful supplement. “DGL can be quite effective—take 1-2 pills before meals to again provide a nice coating in the stomach,” he says.
For a more intensive treatment—especially good for people who experience long-term heartburn symptoms—try d-limonene, says Dr. Jacobs. He recommends taking one every other day for a minimum of a 10-day course.
Finally, Dr. Jacobs points to recent research about melatonin’s usefulness in treating heartburn. “A dose of 3 mg, taken in the evening time (usually 1-2 hours before you go to bed), has been shown to actually increase the tightening of the esophageal sphincter, thereby decreasing your risk of recurrent reflux.”
While many people turn to medications to ease heartburn symptoms, Dr. Jacobs strongly suggests looking into these non-prescription solutions first. Why? “Those who take medications such as proton pump inhibitors often have a hard time getting off of them,” he says. “Studies have also shown that your reflux symptoms can increase as you’re coming off those medications.”
Dr. Jacobs recommends a full examination by a physician if you have persistent symptoms and are over 40 years of age. They can take a closer look at your esophagus and stomach to ensure nothing more concerning is going in.
Speak with a Pharmaca practitioner about natural solutions to acid reflux.