Natural Remedies for Acid Reflux: The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly
- This post addresses many of the natural remedies that can be found in health stores and on the internet; some are helpful, some are useless, and some are harmful for people with acid reflux.
- “Natural antireflux” products are evaluated and characterized into three groups: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
Note: Respiratory Reflux (RR) and Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR) are synonyms and the terms can be used interchangeably. Going forward, I prefer the term RR and so should you; it is easier to pronounce, more intuitive, more comprehensive, and implies that RR can affect any and all parts of the respiratory system, which it does.
Lifestyle Basics: Eating too late, too fatty diet, soft drinks, nicotine, alcohol are far more important issues … those no supplement can even begin to correct.
Most people believe most supplements sold for acid reflux online or in health food stores are either helpful or harmless. Unfortunately, many are based on ideas or information that are just wrong, dead wrong, harmful. Some supplements like HCL, pepsin, and Betaine, alone or in combination, are bad news … run!
And by the way, if you think (or are told) that you don’t have enough stomach acid, wrong! That isn’t a thing. That said, there is a rare autoimmune disease, pernicious anemia, in which the affected person has little or no stomach acid.) Y’all have plenty of stomach acid.
GOOD – Beneficial
Alginates: Alginates are usually taken in the evening after dinner and/or before bed. When swallowed, they form a gel at the top of the stomach that helps block up the lower esophageal sphincter during sleep to prevent Silent Nocturnal Respiratory Reflux; see my Alginate Post.
Antacids: Antacids can be helpful if you have heartburn or indigestion, but for people with respiratory reflux, antacids don’t help … with one exception, Rebound Hyperacidity. I recommend antacids for people who are coming off proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) who have heartburn and worse symptoms, i.e., rebound hyperacidity This can last 2-8 weeks; suck it up; in the end, it will be worth ridding yourself of PPIs.
Alkaline water: I think Alkaline Water is a must for the refluxer; and I recommend it be pH 9.5 or higher. That’s because Pepsin dies at about pH 8. Pepsin (and not acid) is the real culprit in reflux-related swelling, inflammation and even cancer. Alkaline water can be used three ways: for drinking, for Spraying In Your Throat, and for pH-balancing. BTW, i suggest that you avoid Essentia; some of my patients complain that it burns … maybe phosphates? … not in most all other brands
Chewing Gum: If you Chew Gum after a meal, you will make more saliva, more bicarbonate, and swallow a lot more than normal. This repeated swallowing pushes reflux down. If you don’t like chewing gum, you can suck on a hard candy, which will works just as well. Ricola is my favorite hard candy … just avoid things with mint or citrus flavoring.
Manuka Honey: Manuka Honey has been used for centuries as a remedy for heartburn and acid reflux. The mechanism isn’t known; but interestingly, the honey also has antibacterial and antifungal properties, and has been shown to be good for wound care.
Ginger: Ginger has been recommended for centuries for gastric problems, including reflux. I personally like ginger candies, and I have them often. My patients tell me that Ginger Is Helpful, but there are no published scientific data on this.
Probiotics: I think that probiotics help refluxers; perhaps they help the whole gut, as well as help moving things forward. No science here, but I do recommend them based upon feedback from patients over the years. Personally, I buy the least expensive probiotic at Walgreens.
Aloe Vera: This is another time-honored home remedy for acid reflux. You usually can buy a single large Aloe Vera leaf at the grocery store. You cut out about 2 tablespoons of the gooey stuff in the middle and put it in your smoothie. It improves the texture of the smoothie and it’s good for reflux. Aloe vera is also good for minor burns.
Chamomile Tea: Chamomile tea is useful; sometimes I ask people to fast for a long time before bedtime and if they get hungry, I recommend chamomile … and no caffeine. It settles the stomach.
BAD – Not Beneficial
Comment: I think that all of the items in this “bad” group are unhelpful, but probably harmless … except a waste of money … a bad purchase, you.
Digestive Enzymes: This product does not do anything for anyone; although I bet someone has gotten rich over this stuff.
DGL (Licorice): Maybe, but not with the money.
Slippery Elm: Maybe, but not with the money.
Melatonin: Not any credible data to support its use.
Antacids: Only good for heartburn and indigestion … not for respiratory reflux
UGLY – Harmful
Comment: My work has shown that swelling, inflammation, and even cancer is caused by the stomach enzyme, pepsin, and not acid. But here’s the tricky part, acid turns on pepsin. My book Dropping Acid :The Reflux Diet Cookbook & Cure was ground-breaking and showed with science that people with reflux, especially respiratory reflux, should have an alkaline diet and totally avoid acidic foods and beverages until the reflux is gone.
Apple Cider Vinegar: While apple cider vinegar may have many health benefits, reflux treatment is not one of them. It can cause tissue damage and it should be completely avoided if you have acid reflux,
Lemon, Lime, All Citrus: at pH 2.7, way too acidic for refluxers
Soft Drinks, All Of Them: Fruit Juice, Energy Drinks, Soda, Seltzer: Way too acidic
Betaine: Really bad Idea … never use … has no positive uses
Pepsin: Really bad Idea … never use … has no positive uses
HCL: Really bad Idea … never use … has no positive uses
Any Combination of Betaine, Pepsin, and HCL: Just avoid like the plague
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