Many websites claim that probiotics may work as a natural remedy for acid reflux. Is it really true? Let’s look at the clinical evidence on using probiotics for acid reflux.
What is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is characterized by a burning sensation in your lower chest, better known as heartburn. This comes as a result of stomach acids flowing back up into your esophagus. While most people experience occasional acid reflux, chronic acid reflux that occurs at least twice a week is referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.
Ongoing acid reflux and GERD can cause consistent discomfort and may even disrupt your sleep. Most doctors recommend over-the-counter medication and small lifestyle changes, but probiotics may play a role in reducing or preventing acid reflux.
Are Probiotics Good for Acid Reflux?
The research on probiotics and their effect on acid reflux remain limited, but the existing studies are promising.
Research Suggests Probiotics has a Positive Role for Acid in Infants
In a study published by the Chinese Journal of Birth Health and Heredity, researchers investigated the effects of probiotics on premature infants with acid reflux. The scientists divided 80 premature infants into two groups. One group was treated with a probiotic solution, while the other acted as the control group. Results from 24-hour esophageal pH monitoring showed that variables signifying acid reflux were significantly lower in the probiotics group than in the control group. The reduced esophageal acidity suggests less acid in the esophagus. This supports the use of probiotics for acid reflux in infants.1
Study Shows Less Acid Esophageal pH in Infants Treated with Bifidobacteria
In a similar study, researchers evaluated the effects of Bifidobacteria probiotics on 61 premature infants with digestive diseases. The results of the study showed a significantly higher esophageal pH (meaning more alkaline and less acidic) in the infants treated with Bifidobacteria than the control group. The infants in the Bifidobacteria group also spent a significantly lower percentage of time with esophageal pH in the acidic range. The Bifidobacteria group also showed fewer instances of digestive diseases.2
Research Shows Positive Gastric Function in Infants Taking L. reuteri
In another study on young infants, researchers evaluated the effects of Lactobacillus reuteri on the frequency of regurgitation and gastric emptying time in infants with functional acid reflux. The study assigned 42 infants with acid reflux to daily treatment, with either a placebo group or a probiotic group, for a total of 30 days. The probiotic group received 100 million CFUs of Lactobacillus reuteri. The parents of the infants recorded any episodes of regurgitation, while the researchers recorded the infants’ gastric emptying time before and after the study. Another 21 infants without regurgitation were used as a comparison for physiological and anthropometric parameters.
Results showed a significantly increased gastric emptying rate in infants treated with probiotics compared to controls. This means that the stomachs of probiotic treated infants emptied themselves faster than those who weren’t treated with probiotics. The probiotic group also showed a reduction in median episodes of regurgitation per day compared to the control group. These results suggest that the L. reuteri probiotic strain may help to reduce gastric distention, speed up gastric emptying, and reduce the frequency of regurgitation in infants with functional gastroesophageal reflux.3
Study Suggests that Probiotics May Prevent Dysbiosis in Children
Other studies on probiotics and acid reflux have also looked into the use of probiotics in combination with traditional treatment methods for gastroesophageal reflux. Proton pump inhibitors are a common treatment for GERD, but long-term administration of proton pump inhibitors may suppress the gastric acid barrier, ultimately altering populations of gastrointestinal bacteria, causing dysbiosis and diarrhea.
Researchers conducted a study on 128 children with GERD to determine the effect of using probiotics in conjunction with a PPI. The children were split into a control group (receiving a proton pump inhibitor and placebo) and a probiotic group (receiving a PPI and probiotics) and received their respective treatments for 12 weeks.
At the end of the treatment period, the results showed dysbiosis in 56.2 percent of children in the placebo group, while only 6.2 percent of children in the probiotic group expressed dysbiosis. Researchers also noted bacterial overgrowth in 5 percent of the children in the control group. This suggests that probiotics may be beneficial in preventing dysbiosis in those who use proton pump inhibitors for GERD.4
Best Probiotic for Acid Relfux
Acid reflux and GERD can cause significant discomfort, but with the right probiotics, you may be able to keep your acid reflux under control. The best probiotic for acid reflux should offer a diverse variety of bacterial strains and contain natural ingredients. Along with probiotic-rich foods, consider taking a probiotic supplement, like DrFormulas® Nexabiotic.
Lifestyle Changes to Manages Acid Reflux/GERD
Along with incorporating probiotics for acid reflux, consider these simple lifestyle changes to help reduce and manage your acid reflux.5
Avoid acid reflux triggers
Certain foods are known to trigger acid reflux. These include:
- Spicy foods
- Foods high in fat
- Beverages containing caffeine
Everyone has their own foods that they may react to. Keep a food diary and make note of any foods that may be responsible for instances of acid reflux.
Don’t sleep on a full stomach
After eating a meal, give yourself at least three hours before getting some shuteye. Going to bed immediately after a meal does not give food time to digest. The high acid levels and prone position also make it much easier to have an episode of acid reflux.
Watch how you eat
Eating too fast increases the likelihood of having acid reflux, as does overeating. Consider eating four to five smaller portioned meals throughout the day instead of three larger ones. Avoid “shoveling” food into your mouth and instead make an effort to eat slow, making sure that you have completely chewed and swallowed your bite before taking in more food.
Taking probiotics and implementing these lifestyle changes may help with acid reflux. Traditional therapy consisting of proton-pump inhibitors has many side effects. See our article on PPI side effects here.Read next: Probiotic Side Effects | Here's How to Avoid Them