The pain, burning and gassiness that accompany acid reflux can be debilitating to those who suffer from the condition.
Lifestyle and dietary changes that include eliminating sugary and fatty food, exercising and quitting smoking can help, as can over-the-counter and prescription medications.
But there are several natural remedies that can be used instead of or in addition to medications, according to Dr. Allan E. Sosin, founder and medical director of the Institute for Progressive Medicine in Irvine, Calif.
"It really depends on what’s going on with the person and whether or not they’re having severe symptoms," he said. "If they’re not showing severe symptoms, we may just start them with natural items. People will come in on the medications, and we’ll add the nutritional supplements in and sometimes they’ll get off the acid blockers altogether."
Here are five natural remedies that treat the symptoms of acid reflux:
Glutamine. An amino acid that naturally occurs in the human body, glutamine can be found in dietary sources such as beef, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, dairy products, cabbage, beets, beans, spinach and parsley. Sosin said glutamine is an ant-inflammatory that reduces intestinal inflammation associated with acid reflux. It is sometimes used to aid recovery after abdominal surgery and is believed to have "cleansing" properties.
Aloe vera. The sticky gel that seeps from the aloe vera plant has long been used to treat cuts and rashes and many believe the plant to have medicinal properties when taken orally as a juice. Aloe vera has been used to treat stomach upset, diarrhea and inflammation associated with bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis.
Licorice. Most often associated with candy, herbal licorice is used in Eastern medicine to treat diseases of the spleen, liver and kidneys. It is also believed to be effective in treating stomach and intestinal ulcers, reducing stomach acid levels, coating the stomach wall with a protective gel and relieving constipation.
Apple cider vinegar. Although this vinegar is purported to treat everything from hay fever to warts (with little evidence to back up its effectiveness), it does appear to have a calming effect on stomach acid.
"I really don’t know how it works," Sosin said. "You would think it wouldn’t because it’s very acidic on its own. But lots of people respond to it really well. I think it may have something to do with the fact that it helps with digestion and a lot of acid reflux symptoms stem from not digesting food well. A lot of times, when other things haven’t worked, people find apple cider vinegar does. And it can be taken indefinitely."
Sodium bicarbonate. Also called baking soda, used to kill odors in refrigerators, this can be used as an antacid to treat heartburn and stomach upset, Sosin said, adding that it is not recommended for people with high blood pressure or those on sodium-restricted diets.