Can You Use Probiotics to Cure Acid Reflux?
The first thing that needs to be understood is that there are many different types of symptoms associated with acid reflux. Some people experience only mild symptoms, some experience severe symptoms, and others do not have any symptom at all. For example, if you don’t feel anything when eating foods containing dairy products or fermented milk products such as kefir then your body may be able to handle it without much problem. If however you start experiencing severe symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, cramping and other symptoms then you need to seek medical attention immediately.
Another important point to note is that most people will respond better to certain kinds of treatments than others. That’s why it is very important to consult with a doctor if you suspect that you might have acid reflux disease (ARED).
ARED is a chronic condition that usually develops over time. It is caused by a combination of genetic factors, diet, lifestyle choices and environmental factors. Many doctors will prescribe medications to treat ARED but they often fail to work well because they aren’t effective against all patients.
In order to determine which type of treatment would be best for you, it helps to understand what causes acid reflux in the first place. ARED is usually caused by a dysfunction in the body’s natural defense mechanisms.
Your body produces mucus and hydrochloric acid to help digestion and prevent bacteria from entering your stomach. When the mucus membrane between your esophagus and your stomach isn’t functioning properly, you start to experience symptoms of acid reflux.
When you consume food or drinks that are very fatty or contain an excessive amount of sugars, your risk of experiencing acid reflux symptoms increases. Other lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking alcohol and being overweight can also cause or worsen acid reflux symptoms.
For most people, acid reflux can be treated at home by making a few diet and lifestyle changes. When it becomes more severe however, you may need to see a doctor for stronger medicines.
The important thing to remember is that there is no cure for acid reflux. You can only treat the symptoms so if you experience bad acid reflux symptoms, you should see your doctor as soon as possible – and don’t try self medication unless you have had success treating acid reflux with over the counter medications in the past.
Over the counter acid reflux medications can be taken as long as your doctor recommends them. They help by reducing the production of acid and by raising the threshold at which acid is released.
These medicines will not however heal your condition or make it go away, they are merely there to make your symptoms more tolerable.
There are also a few natural home remedies that may be able to cure or alleviate your acid reflux disease. Once again though, these should only be used once your doctor has given you the go ahead.
Acid Reflux (Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease)
1. Do not lie down or go to bed within three hours of eating
This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make if you suffer from acid reflux disease. When you lie down, the lower esophageal sphincter fails to close properly which causes acid to flow back up into your throat.
It’s best to lie on your left side during or after a meal because that puts less pressure on the sphincter and reduces the likelihood of acid reflux.
2. Lose weight
Being overweight can contribute to acid reflux because extra weight pressures the stomach which in turn increases the production of acid. Losing weight will reduce the amount of pressure on your stomach and help to cure your acid reflux disease.
3. Avoid lying down or going to bed within three hours of eating
This is another big one. Lying down or going to bed too soon after a meal can cause acid to flow back into your throat where it can cause all manner of adverse effects.
4. Chew gum after meals
Chew a piece of sugar free mint gum after meals. The act of chewing increases the action of the muscles in the esophagus which help to push stomach acid back into the stomach where it belongs.
5. Do not eat within three hours of bedtime
This is another important one. It’s best to feed your body at least three hours worth of time before you go to sleep because when you sleep your lower esophageal sphincter relaxes which can lead to acid leaking up into your throat.
6. Eat food that is dry and light
Dry, light foods such as pop corn take longer to digest than other foods. This means that your stomach will be full for longer which in turn means that you’re much less likely to suffer from heartburn or acid reflux.
7. Eat food containing calcium, proteins and fat
Foods containing these nutrients are heavy and can therefore contribute to heartburn. Foods such as cream, butter, oil, mayonnaise and cheese are examples of foods rich in fat.
Foods containing calcium include milk and dairy products. Foods containing proteins include meat, fish, beans and lentils.
8. Do not eat food that are spicy or acidic
Spicy and acidic foods can cause irritation to the lining of the oesophagus which can worsen acid reflux disease.
9. Avoid food that are high in fat, acid and sugar
These types of foods are likely to cause irritation and should be avoided if you suffer from acid reflux disease.
10. Drink coffee, colas or alcohol after a meal
These types of drinks are likely to cause irritation the lining of your oesophagus and can worsen the symptoms of your acid reflux disease.
11. Avoid lying down or going to bed within three hours of eating
The higher the stomach content, the greater the pressure on the lower oesophageal sphincter and the greater the likelihood of acid leaking back up into your throat.
12. Do not eat big meals
Eating big meals increases the pressure in your stomach which can cause acid to leak back into your throat.
13. Eat small, frequent meals
Eating small meals frequently helps to keep the pressure in your stomach low and can therefore reduce the likelihood of acid leaking back up into your throat.
14. Eat food that are soft or liquid
Foods such as soups and smoothies are likely to be easily digested and absorbed and therefore they put much less pressure on the stomach than solid foods such as steak and pork chops.
15. Use an over the counter solution to reduce acid production in the stomach
Drugs such as antacids are designed to reduce the levels of acid in the stomach or even block acid production completely. Using these drugs when necessary can make a huge difference to the oesophagus lining and therefore the symptoms of your acid reflux disease.
16. Use an over the counter solution to reduce acidity in the mouth
Drugs such as rinses are designed to neutralize the acid in the mouth. Using these drugs can make a huge difference to the symptoms of your heartburn and acid reflux disease.
They are especially effective when taken between meals or before bedtime.
17. Ask your doctor about prescription strength medications
Your doctor may be able to prescribe you a stronger medication that can help to relieve the symptoms of your heartburn or acid reflux disease.
It is important to consult with your physician before taking any new medication.
18. Drink alcohol in moderation
Alcohol, like coffee and colas can irritate the lining of the oesophagus and worsen symptoms of your heartburn or acid reflux disease. It is best to avoid drinking large quantities of alcohol.
19. Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly
Eating too quickly or eating food that is difficult to chew can cause you to choke or cough which can in turn cause acid to be forced up into the oesophagus. Always ensure that you take time when eating and chew your food thoroughly.
20. Do not lie down or go to bed too soon after eating
See number 11.
21. Use an extra pillow to elevate the head end of your bed
This helps to keep the oesophagus at an incline and therefore reduces the likelihood of stomach acid leaking up into the throat.
22. Do not bend over or lift anything heavy within three hours of eating
Bending over or lifting heavy objects increases pressure in the abdomen which can cause acid to leak from the stomach.
23. Avoid tight clothing, cigarettes and alcohol
All of these can irritate or damage the lining of the oesophagus and worsen symptoms of your heartburn or acid reflux disease.
This comprehensive list may seem a little overwhelming but most of the above precautions are common sense. And most of them you’ll probably already be doing either consciously or unconsciously.
The only major lifestyle change may be quitting smoking. If you do have acid reflux disease, making a few changes in your diet and lifestyle can help to relieve the symptoms and make your life that little bit easier.
There is no cure for acid reflux disease but there are a number of things you can do to ease the symptoms and lead a relatively symptom free life.
Sources & references used in this article:
Prophylactic use of a probiotic in the prevention of colic, regurgitation, and functional constipation: a randomized clinical trial by F Indrio, A Di Mauro, G Riezzo, E Civardi, C Intini… – JAMA …, 2014 – jamanetwork.com
Is it useful to administer probiotics together with proton pump inhibitors in children with gastroesophageal reflux? by O Belei, L Olariu, A Dobrescu, T Marcovici… – Journal of …, 2018 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Stress and the gut: pathophysiology, clinical consequences, diagnostic approach and treatment options by PC Konturek, T Brzozowski, SJ Konturek – J Physiol Pharmacol, 2011 – jpp.krakow.pl
Tolerance of probiotics and prebiotics by P Marteau, P Seksik – Journal of clinical gastroenterology, 2004 – journals.lww.com
Probiotics prophylaxis in children with persistent primary vesicoureteral reflux by SJ Lee, YH Shim, SJ Cho, JW Lee – Pediatric Nephrology, 2007 – Springer