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January 18, 2022  
REFLUX1 FEATURE: Living with GERD Center

Alternative Treatments for GERD

Are you wary at the thought of pharmaceutical or surgical options for your GERD symptoms? Below, Reflux1 details some alternate remedies you can try:

Herbal Remedies
Although heartburn can often be alleviated with antacids and other modern medicines, some patients prefer to pursue relief via herbal remedies. The most commonly cited herbal remedies for heartburn are chamomile, peppermint, and ginger.

Unlike traditional drugs, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate herbal remedies and treatments, and therefore their true effectiveness is often difficult to judge. Moreover, a prepackaged treatment for heartburn often contains many different herbs, some of which are not combating heartburn itself. A variety of sources however, including the American Botanical Council, all advocate the use of chamomile (Matricaria recutita), ginger (Zingiber officinale), and peppermint (Mentha piperita) to treat this condition.

All three fall into a group of herbs which the General Nutrition Center (GNC) terms "carminative," and are thought to relieve indigestion and intestinal irritation. Chamomile, widely recognized for its calming properties, is thought to help relieve esophageal irritation and aid proper digestion. The presumed mechanism of action is through a decrease in stomach acid, due to its high calcium content. Traditionally used for many gastrointestinal problems, ginger assists in proper digestion by promoting spontaneous intestinal movement. Additionally, ginger has anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea properties. Peppermint is also believed to act against indigestion, and has the additional property of calming the gastrointestinal tract. Moreover, one study of peppermint in combination with caraway fruit was also found to ease the symptoms of heartburn.

In addition to the “carminative� class of heartburn herbs, GNC also suggests that “bitter digestive stimulants� such as blessed thistle may promote digestive enzyme production and thus alleviate heartburn. However, such herbs are not as universally recommended as chamomile, ginger, and peppermint. As with all medications, a doctor should be consulted before using any sort of herbal remedy to ensure it does not conflict with other ongoing treatments.

Prop-Up Pillows
Prop-up pillows combat gravity while you sleep, decreasing the likelihood that stomach contents will be able to reflux back into your esophagus.

When you are lying down, it’s easy for acid to flow from your stomach into your esophagus. By contrast, if you’re standing up, sitting, or lying with your upper body at an incline, gravity keeps stomach contents down.

You can try placing 4 to 6-inch wooden blocks under the head of your bed to create an incline. This may, however, cause you to slide down the bed while you sleep, and could be uncomfortable. Simply propping up your head and neck by adding a few extra pillows probably won’t work very well. For many people, anti-reflux pillows, which essentially place a wedge under your upper body, are a better idea. Prop-up pillows support your back, head and neck, placing your entire upper body at an incline.

Do some research to find a pillow that’s right for you. Your pillow should relieve heartburn symptoms and be comfortable for your back. Many of these pillows are sold online.

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