Probiotics for Acid Reflux
What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux happens when the acid and other content of your stomach back up into your esophagus through the lower esophageal sphincter or LES. Usually, your LES closes when you swallow foods to prevent them from rising. When it’s weak, your LES may not close properly, causing acid reflux.
Symptoms of acid reflux include:
- Burning sensation in the chest
- A sour or bitter-tasting acid backing up into your throat or mouth
- Bloating and feeling sick
- A cough or hiccup that keeps coming back
The content in your stomach is mixed with hydrochloric acid that helps break down foods. This splashing causes an unpleasant burning sensation in the throat or chest. If this continues for a long time, it can lead to tissue damage and other complications, which we call gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.
GERD is one of the most common in the digestive system. When left untreated, GERD and heartburn can have serious complications such as ulceration, scarring, constriction, and even cancer of the esophagus.
Acid reflux and poor gut health
Acid reflux and GERD are often caused by insufficient stomach acid, which may be due to an imbalance in the gut microbiome. When the number of bad bacteria outnumbers the good bacteria, it affects the level of the stomach acid. This makes you more susceptible to pathogens and infections.
Your acid reflux worsens when there is dysbiosis or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. This occurs when the bad bacteria move from the large intestine to the small intestine. Here, they start to ferment carbohydrates. The fermentation process can lead to a variety of unpleasant symptoms that contribute to acid reflux, such as:
- Poor gastric motility
- Weakness of the lower esophageal sphincter
- Pressure in the abdomen
Are probiotics effective for acid reflux?
Treatment of acid reflux should begin by treating the underlying causes. This means you need to cut bacterial overgrowth and restore your stomach’s natural acid production. One way to do this is through probiotics.
The role of probiotics in supporting lower GI balance and restoring the beneficial microbes in the gut is well-documented. However, there is less evidence about their effects on the upper GI tract. According to research, taking probiotics may be relevant to change seen in GERD:
- Certain strains of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus can alter the immune response and inhibits bad bacteria by producing short-chain fatty acids like lactic acid.
- Probiotics can reduce the effects of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) thus increases intestinal motility and immunity.
- Certain strains of probiotics can speed up gastric emptying.
- Probiotics can restore the normal balance of good microbes in your gut. This allows them to crowd out the bad bacteria and maintain normal digestive function.
- Increasing the number of good bacteria in the gut helps break down foods faster and prevents them from fermenting. Without healthy bacteria in your gut, it takes longer for the foods to break down. As a result, the undigested foods in your gut ferment causing gas and acid reflux.
- Probiotics can help protect your gut from pylori bacteria. H. pylori can cause damages to the gut, allowing bad bacteria to thrive. It also reduces the acidity of your stomach even further.