Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common digestive disorder that affects many people and can be extremely uncomfortable and distressing. In the United States, it is estimated that 20% of the adult population has GERD symptoms on a weekly basis, and up to 10% have symptoms daily.
GERD is a condition in which stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing irritation and inflammation. Over time, this can lead to damage to the lining of the esophagus and contribute to the development of complications like Barrett’s esophagus.
As a naturopathic practitioner, I believe in treating GERD with a holistic approach (whenever possible) that addresses the underlying causes of the condition and supports digestive health.
Here are some naturopathic treatments for GERD:
- Dietary modifications: Certain foods can trigger GERD symptoms, so it’s important to be aware of them and in some cases, avoid them. Common triggers include caffeine, refined carbs (cereals, bread, pasta, crackers and more), alcohol, fried foods, chocolate, spicy foods, and acidic foods. Eating smaller, more frequent meals and avoiding eating before bedtime can also be helpful.
- Probiotics: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help restore the balance of gut bacteria and support digestive health. They can be found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, or taken in supplement form.
- Digestive Enzymes: Digestive enzymes can help to break down food more efficiently, which reduces the amount of undigested food that remains in the stomach and can contribute to symptoms like heartburn, bloating, and discomfort. Enzymes are naturally occurring proteins that help to facilitate chemical reactions in the body, including the breakdown of food molecules (proteins, fats and carbs) into their component parts. When taken as supplements, digestive enzymes can help to augment the body’s own digestive processes, particularly in cases where the body may not be producing enough of its own enzymes.
- Herbal remedies: Certain herbs can help soothe the digestive tract and reduce inflammation. Examples include deglycerinated licorice, marshmallow root, chamomile, and slippery elm. These herbs are helpful for GERD due to their soothing and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Licorice root contains compounds that have been shown to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract and protect the lining of the stomach. It can also help reduce the production of stomach acid, making it a helpful herb for GERD.
- Marshmallow root is another herb that can help soothe the digestive tract and reduce inflammation. It contains compounds that form a gel-like substance when mixed with water, which can help protect the lining of the stomach and esophagus from the damaging effects of acid reflux.
- Chamomile is an herb that has been traditionally used for digestive issues, including GERD. It can help reduce inflammation and relax the muscles of the digestive tract, making it easier for food to pass through.
- Slippery elm is an herb that contains a substance called mucilage, which can help soothe and coat the lining of the stomach and esophagus. This can help protect against the harmful effects of acid reflux and reduce inflammation.
- Other nutrients: Certain nutrients such as zinc carnosine and melatonin may be helpful for GERD because they support digestive health and help to reduce inflammation and irritation in the digestive tract.
- Zinc Carnosine: This mineral is important because of its ability to support the health and integrity of the stomach lining. Zinc carnosine works by supporting the natural repair and healing processes of the stomach lining. It helps to increase the production of mucus in the stomach, which provides a protective barrier against stomach acid. It also helps to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which can contribute to damage of the stomach lining.
- Melatonin: This hormone is naturally produced by the body and helps to regulate sleep-wake cycles. It may also help to reduce symptoms of GERD by reducing the production of stomach acid, while increasing gastrin release, which in turn stimulates the contractility of lower esophageal sphincter (LES).
- Mind-body techniques: Stress and anxiety can exacerbate GERD symptoms, so incorporating mind-body techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help reduce stress and support digestive health.
It’s important to note that these treatments should be used in conjunction with medical care and under the guidance of a qualified healthcare practitioner. They can help you determine which nutrients may be helpful for your specific condition and recommend the appropriate dosage and form of supplementation. If you are experiencing symptoms of GERD, it’s important to consult with a naturopathic provider to determine the best course of treatment for you.