Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder in which acid in the stomach travels up back to the oesophagus. This stomach acid also contains pepsin and pancreatic enzymes, resulting in issues like heartburn, dyspepsia and regurgitation. This condition can last for months. GERD can damage the oesophagal lining and duodenum. If left untreated, it may worsen leading to motor dysfunctions, hiatal hernia, and impaired mucosal resistance.
The prevalence of GERD across the globe is approx. between 8-33%.
GERD can be managed by making changes in the diet and lifestyle along with medical treatments. Dietary management usually revolves around consuming small frequent meals, avoiding large portions intake, avoiding alcohol, caffeine, fat-rich meals and maintaining an active lifestyle.
With increasing research, medical practitioners have started using supplements as well to manage some medical conditions and GERD is one of them.
Usage of probiotics to manage acid reflux is gaining popularity these days. Probiotics are good microorganisms that are necessary to maintain a healthy gut, intestinal health and overall digestion. They keep bad bacteria away and protect our gut lining from damage. If the bad bacterial load increases then it may lead to severe digestion issues, ulcers, IBS, leaky gut and intoxication. Therefore, probiotics are a reliable therapy that can be used to combat indigestion issues like acid reflux.
A study was conducted in 2019 to study the effect of probiotic supplements among the patients suffering from Reflux Esophagitis (RE). The patients had inflammation, erosion and ulceration in the oesophagus. They were given probiotics Bacillus subtilis and Enterococcus faecium for eight weeks. At the end of the study, it was found that probiotics intake had a favourable effect on RE treatment. The abdominal symptoms were improved and the risk of developing SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) was also reduced.
Similarly, another study conducted in Finland (2019) also observed the efficacy of probiotics for GERD. It was found that among 11, 5 people had improved abdominal heath with reduced regurgitation and heartburn. Symptoms of dyspepsia like nausea, belching, burping and gurgling were also reduced.
As per researchers, probiotics exert their beneficial effect by directly interacting with gut microbiota, enzymatic actions, promoting gut barrier health and modulating the activity of immune cells with our nervous system.
Hence, consumption of probiotics is associated with better management of GERD, acid reflux and other associated conditions. Not only they help with digestion but may also play a significant role in curing IBS, diarrhoea, combating intestinal infections, stomach ulcers and urinary tract infections.
Probiotics are easy to include in the diet. Some of the excellent probiotic sources are yoghurt, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut and traditional buttermilk. They can also be consumed in the form of supplements but always read the ingredients and nutritional label carefully before purchasing any probiotic supplement.