Supplements & Vitamins for Heartburn and Acid Reflux: Attack It Naturally
Supplements & Vitamins for Heartburn and Acid Reflux: How to Heal Naturally
You're probably looking for supplements and vitamins for heartburn and acid reflux if you've experienced that burning sensation in your throat or chest. And you're not alone - nearly 30 million people in the US suffer from acid reflux.
Most likely your doctor will recommend a course of PPI's - proton pump inhibitors and hopefully lifestyle changes like: stopping smoking, alcohol, reducing caffeine, changing your diet....
While PPIs can provide significant and immediate relief, the long term use side effects and acid rebound if you try to get off of them, make them less than ideal. (R)
That being said, you came here looking for alternatives - supplements and vitamins for heartburn and acid reflux relief.
What Causes Heartburn / Acid Reflux?
Heartburn is what you feel when you suffer a bout of acid reflux. Your stomach contents (acid, food, bile...) wash back up into your esophagus and cause a burning sensation that can emanate up into your chest and throat.
It's not so much the acid that causes the problem - but your lower esophageal sphincter relaxing or opening up that enables the food, acid, and/or bile to get into your esophagus in the first place. That is the real cause.
Under normal circumstances, your lower esophageal sphincter (LES) should stay closed - opening only to let food down into your stomach or for your to burp and release gases.
However, when your lower esophageal sphincter is weak or your esophagus, as a whole, is dys-motile, acid can end up in your esophagus - causing pain, inflammation, and damage. Ugh - it's the worst, let me tell you.
They are also coming to discover that the LES is not the only culprit - dysmotility of the esophagus may also be a cause of acid reflux. This is when the esophagus doesn't quite move the way it should, for whatever reason.
What If I Have Heartburn that Won't Go Away?
Everyone gets heartburn periodically, or almost everyone. Maybe you've eaten a super heavy, greasy, and rich meal that just suffers in your gut. Maybe you enjoyed a few too many glasses of wine. It happens.
But when you have heartburn that won't go away - you may have acid reflux or GERD (gastero esophageal reflux disease). Either way, in this case, it's important to see your doctor so that she (or he) can give you a good workup and get to the root cause.
What If I Have Nocturnal, or Nighttime, Acid Reflux?
In that case, in addition to any dietary and lifestyle changes, you'll want to sleep on an incline and preferably on your left side. You can either elevate the head of your bed or use a wedge pillow for nighttime acid reflux.
What is Bile Reflux?
Bile is secreted by your liver. It helps break down fats and fat soluble vitamins. Sometimes bile will back up into your stomach (it's supposed to only be in the small intestines). If it backs up into your stomach, you can also reflux it into your esophagus.
Bile is extremely alkaline.
Side note: If you suffer from esophagitis or Barrett's Esophagus, acid isn't the only thing you need to worry about. You also need to consider bile a potential problem. This means, you need to block acid and protect against bile - it's a one-two punch approach.
In fact, there have been documented Barrett's Esophagus reversals using a combination of PPI's, 1 mg of folic acid, and sucralfate (to coat and protect the esophagus from both acid and bile). (R)
What Foods Cause Heartburn and Acid Reflux?
Foods that can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, cause the stomach to release a lot of acid and/or are slow to be digested may cause acid reflux and heartburn:
- fatty foods
- spicy foods
- meats and animal fats
- carbonated beverages
- acidic foods (tomatoes and citrus)
- garlic and onions
What Should I Eat If I Suffer From Acid Reflux?
Outside of being painful, although there are those that have silent acid reflux, longterm acid reflux can cause reflux esophagitis, Barrett's Esophagus, and maybe even esophageal cancer. So you're looking to eat foods that not only potentially neutralize stomach acid, but also are protective of inflammation and cancer:
- bananas (high in potassium and magnesium/potentially acid neutralizing)
- foods high in vitamin A (carrots, mango, sweet potatoes)
- foods high in vitamin C (berries, kiwi...)
- berries (especially strawberries, which were found to slow pre-cancerous growths) (R)
- low fat proteins
- eggs (they have choline - which encourages gut motility)
- steamed veggies (I've found that the cruciferous veggies like broccoli, kale, and cauliflower, cause bloating which makes acid reflux worse on me).
- pureed soups (without heavy cream)
- whole grains
- experiment with what triggers or does not trigger acid reflux in you. For me, chicken, even the white meat, triggers reflux. Go figure.
Can Anxiety Cause Acid Reflux
The short answer is "YES." (R)
In fact, in my case, I think that all of my stomach issues are related to anxiety and stress. I've come to know a gnawing rock feeling in my gut - whenever I am anxious or stressed. And in my opinion, I think that years of this slowed my stomach - and then that slowed digestion and motility put pressure on my lower esophageal sphincter, ultimately causing me to have acid reflux - and now reflux esophagitis. (This is my opinion about how I've gotten to this point.)
But my story and opinion aside - depression, stress, and anxiety are linked to GERD. (R) Just think of the "fight or flight" response: psychological stress pulls resources from digestion and cellular repair and directs them to increased blood flow to extremities preparing to do battle or run away. Basically, who has time to digest a sandwich when your body is getting ready to fight or flee?
On the flip side of that, reducing stress can reduce acid reflux. There was a case study of a man with severe acid reflux induced esophagitis. His GERD was barely responsive to PPI treatment. However, by combining yoga, specifically Pranayamas (like below) and PPI's, he was able to significantly reduce his acid reflux, and hence esophagitis, within a 6 month period. (R)
Pranayamas for Acid Reflux
Supplements & Vitamins for Heartburn & Acid Reflux
Alright, so let's say you suffer acid reflux. And you're looking for either alternatives for, or additions to, standard PPI therapy.
Here are a list of supplements and vitamins for heartburn and acid reflux. This list is science backed and has been found to reduce symptoms and heal inflammation.
Melatonin for Heartburn & Acid Reflux
Melatonin is also known as the sleep hormone. It is secreted by the pineal gland as the light changes from day to night. Additionally, melatonin also signals the digestive system that it is time for rest and repair versus digestion. As such it reduces stomach acid secretions. It has also been found to protect the esophageal lining and prevent the progression from Barrett's Esophagus to esophageal cancer. (R) (R)
I personally take 10mg of melatonin each night.
Make sure you take a synthetic form, versus the form derived from actual cow brain, since it's unknown whether or not it could be a vector of transmission for mad cow disease.
This is the brand that I take. I've called to confirm that their form is synthetic.
Zinc Carnosine for Acid Reflux
I'll also use this sometimes in the morning - it has zinc carnosine and dgl licorice. I dissolve 2 teaspoons in an ounce of water and then take it a teaspoon at a time to ease any acidic feeling.
Calcium Carbonate for Acid Reflux
Calcium carbonate, found in TUMS, and other chewable anti-acids, is commonly known to neutralize stomach acids. But there are other benefits it delivers. It also increases esophageal peristalisis and lower esophageal muscle tone & contractions.(R)
Alginate for Acid Reflux
This is an interesting supplement that I stumbled on while researching Barrett's Esophagus. Since sucralfate is only available via a prescription, I was looking for something that could potentially coat and protect my esophagus from the assault of my stomach contents.
And I found alginate.
What resonates with me is that the alignate, when it mixes with stomach acid, forms little pillow-like floating buffers. So if you are refluxing your stomach contents, these pillow-like buffers will most likely go into your esophagus first, thereby reducing the acid backwash. It also forms a coating on your esophageal lining, thereby protecting it. (R) (R)
Iodine for Acid Reflux
I, apparently, have a weak lower esophageal sphincter - or at least that is what the gastroenterologist observed during an upper endoscopy. UGH - he described it as "gaping" - not a good adjective that you want used to describe your LES.
I stumbled on a link between low thyroid and weak LES. My thyroid blood results are normal. However, I still do supplement now, on occasion, with iodine. It's possible that I have subclinical low thyroid - I'm not sure. But I don't do it daily so as not to overdo it. We also don't use iodized salt or eat any shellfish, so we're not really getting it in our diet. (R)
Essential Oils for Acid Reflux
I've found a lot of sites selling essential oils for acid reflux. However, I have not found any studies or testimonials to back this up. The most recommended essential oil for heartburn is peppermint. In my opinion that is a bad idea - I think that the peppermint masks the heartburn pain. Additionally, peppermint actually relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter so it can make heartburn and acid reflux worse in the long term.
Iberogast for Acid Reflux
Iberogast is a 9-herbal blend (it does include peppermint) that has been found to reduce stomach hyperacidity in a manner that is comparable to over the counter antacids.
It also reduces bloating and belching.
It makes sense that if you reduce bloating, you reduce the pressure on your LES and therefore you may also reduce acid reflux. In fact, part of what can weaken the LES is increased pressure in the gut from slow gastric emptying, gas, tight clothes....
I have not tried it - but if you want to try it, you can buy it here. (If you do try it, please let me know how it goes.)
Probiotics for Acid Reflux
Again, I found a lot of sites selling probiotics that claim to alleviate acid reflux. However, I could not find any studies or verifiable testimonials that found that this was true. If you've used a probiotic to relieve your acid reflux, let me know.
Supplements & Vitamins for Heartburn and Acid Reflux
(A Study Backed Protocol)
While researching a whole host of supplements and vitamins for acid reflux, I stumbled on a very interesting protocol. This protocol claimed to cure acid reflux in 100% of the group vs a control group that took 20mg of omeprazole. The control group only had a 63% cure rate. (R) (R)
Here is the once a day protocol:
- melatonin (6 mg)
- tryptophan (200 mg)
- vitamin B12 (50 micrograms)
- methionine (100 mg)
- vitamin B6 (25 mg)
- betaine (100 mg)
- folic acid (10 mg)
The only thing that seems a little out of whack is the 10mg of folic acid - since folic acid is usually dosed in micrograms - you essentially need (10) 1000 mcg pills to get this dosage. However, the b vitamins are known to be helpful in preventing esophagitis - and the progression towards Barretts and cancer. (R)
I've emailed the original scientists on this study, but have not gotten a response back. I am going to try this protocol myself - taking it around dinner time. I'll post how it goes. And if you try this protocol, please let me know as well.