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Probiotics and Acid Reflux

Your gut is home to more than 100 trillion microbes. These microbes that live inside your body help you digest food fight off infections, and might even be able to treat stomach ulcers. They can provide a host of other benefits - but could they also help with acid reflux?


What is acid reflux?


Acid reflux is a common health problem in western countries. In the past, acid reflux was treated with medications. Taking antacid from a bottle isn't uncommon at all. It can indeed provide temporary relief, but it does not always resolve the underlying issue.


Acid reflux causes burning pain in the lower chest area called heartburn. It occurs when stomach acid backs up into the airways. Now, when acid reflux occurs more than twice a week, we call this condition gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. Other names for acid reflux are acid indigestion or pyrosis. Symptoms of acid reflux include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Belching
  • Burning or pain in the esophagus, chest, or throat
  • Nausea
  • Gas and bloating
  • Regurgitation of foods you've eaten
  • Urges clearing throat more frequently


What are the causes of acid reflux?


In acid reflux, acid from the stomach moves up into the esophagus, moving food from the mouth down to the gullet. Despite the name, heartburn doesn't originate from the heart. Causes of acid reflux include:

  • Over Indulgence: Overeating causes the stomach to be overfilled, pushing the foods towards the esophagus. As the foods ferment, the acid starts to bubble up, causing heartburn.
  • Being overweight: The extra weight you carry may also make you more likely to suffer from acid reflux since it pushes the food up toward your esophagus. Because of this, pregnant women often suffer from this awful heartburn towards the end of their pregnancy as the baby pushes everything up and causes acid reflux.
  • The type of foods you eat: Foods and beverages containing caffeine and alcohol, as well as spicy, fried, citrus, and tomato-based foods, are commonly responsible for heartburn.


Acid reflux and poor gut health


A significant risk factor for acid reflux is an imbalance of bacteria and yeast. You are more susceptible to infections when you have a more substantial number of pathogenic microbes in your gut than good ones. Researchers have shown that gut dysbiosis and SIBO can cause reflux symptoms.


In SIBO, 'bad' bacteria travel from the large to the small intestine, where they do not belong. Here, they begin to ferment carbohydrates.

The fermentation process - along with the bacteria that cause it - often leads to various unpleasant symptoms, including flatulence, poor gastric motility, abdominal pressure, and lower esophageal sphincter weakness. In addition, this physiological process is responsible for acid reflux.


How can probiotics help with acid reflux?


Probiotics seem to be becoming a popular approach in the fight against acid reflux. Although there has not been much research done on this, there is a growing body of evidence that probiotics may relieve acid reflux symptoms.

Supplements containing Lactobacillus strains may well help treat acid reflux. Probiotic strains, however, are tailored to the individual based on the underlying cause.


For patients undergoing triple therapy to treat H. pylori infection, taking probiotic supplements with L. acidophilus and L. rhamnosus may be beneficial.

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