The churning, burning feelings associated with acid reflux can be miserable. And getting rid of the problem can be challenging.
Acid reflux can be caused by everything from eating spicy foods to stress to pregnancy. There are many medications designed to soothe the stomach and relieve symptoms, but a lot of people are concerned about their potential side effects. If you are one of them, you might be looking at other options, such as probiotics.
So, are probiotics for acid reflux the answer?
Here’s some information on the symptoms of acid reflux and the connection between probiotics and your digestive system.
Acid Reflux – The Basics
Acid reflux is, in a nutshell, a condition that occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. Also known as gastroesophageal reflux, it can lead to a burning feeling not only in the stomach, but also the chest and even the mouth and throat.1
It’s similar to GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), but the symptoms associated with GERD are usually more severe. They include difficulty swallowing, a significant amount of burning in the chest, and coughing.2
There are powerful drugs available to treat both acid reflux and GERD, both prescription and over-the-counter. However, many of these medications have been linked to potentially serious side effects. These include nutrient deficiencies (specifically vitamin B12, calcium, and magnesium), weight gain, and an increased risk of bone fractures.3
How a Probiotic Supplement May Help
If you’re suffering from acid reflux or GERD, you might be interested in trying more natural methods to find relief. And probiotics, which are available in supplement form as well as through food, could be an option.
Before you try a probiotic to address any digestive issues you are facing, however, it’s important that you know what they are.
Probiotics are “good” microbes, such as bacteria and yeast. Your gastrointestinal tract, also known as your “gut,” is filled with trillions of microbes. Many of them are bad for you, but many others are beneficial. Probiotics provide reinforcements to those beneficial microbes.4
When your digestive system works properly, and your stomach acid is in check, you typically won’t have major stomach issues. One of the reasons why is that there’s a proper balance between good and bad microbes in your gut. But when something throws off that balance, and the “bad guys” outnumber the “good guys,” you might experience stomach issues.5
Many foods naturally contain probiotics, including sourdough bread, fermented milk, and sauerkraut. However, it can be difficult to get an ample supply of probiotics in your digestive system through food alone.
There are many types of supplements available that can help make sure you have enough beneficial probiotics in your stomach, as well as the rest of your digestive system.
What the Research Suggests
There is some evidence that one of the contributing factors to acid reflux may be an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the gut.6 There’s actually a name for this problem – small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Because probiotics are designed to increase the number of beneficial microbes and the gut and inhibit the development of harmful ones, they may play a role in helping to stop the development of SIBO as well.7
Research on how probiotics for acid reflux may help is still in its early stages. However, early results are promising.
People with acid reflux normally experience regurgitation of acid from the stomach to the esophagus. This, in turn, leads to the sour taste that patients often report.8
According to one study, supplementation with a strain of probiotic bacteria known as Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 resulted in a substantial decrease in regurgitation among infants.9
Acid Reflux – When to Get Medical Help
There are some instances where someone with acid reflux will need to get medical help for severe symptoms. Here are a few warning signs that you’ll need to see a doctor ASAP:
People with acid reflux will usually experience cramping in the stomach every once in a while. But if the cramps don’t go away, or if you pass black stools, seek medical attention immediately. There’s a chance you’ve developed bleeding in the intestines, or some sort of damage has occurred in your stomach.10
If you can’t seem to shake your cough, get to a doctor. It can actually be a sign you have a severe case of GERD.11 Your doctor can confirm this, and help you determine the best course of action.
Unexpected weight loss
Acid reflux, and the resulting stomach acid, may make it difficult for your body to absorb the nutrients it needs from the food you eat. Over time, that could lead to not only weight loss, but also a weakening of the immune system.12
Obviously, any sort of chest pain will need to be checked out immediately. You might think it’s normal to have some chest discomfort if you have acid reflux, but always get medical attention to make sure it’s not something more serious.13
Wrapping it Up
Fortunately, acid reflux can typically be controlled. And you might want to see if probiotics for acid reflux can help you to find relief. Whether you plan on getting probiotics from food or supplements, talk to your doctor first about your options. Here’s to you finding relief!
Learn More About the Benefits of Probiotics:
Probiotic Skincare: A New Frontier in the Pursuit of Youthful Skin
9 Gut-Friendly Foods That Supercharge Your Health
12 Awesome Benefits of Lactobacillus Acidophilus (including weight loss!)