Jul 26, 2023 • 8 min read

Supplements for GERD (Heartburn & Acid Reflux)

  • Facebook
  • Linkedin
  • Twitter
  • Message

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common disorder of the upper gastrointestinal tract. It occurs when stomach acid travels back up your esophagus, which is also known as acid reflux. A common symptom of heartburn is a burning sensation in your chest.

Other than heartburn, symptoms of GERD include regurgitation, bitter taste, belching, nausea, and dry cough. Difficulty or pain while swallowing may occur in more severe cases. This can be very uncomfortable for people, especially after eating.

Medications that might be prescribed to treat GERD include antacids, proton-pump inhibitors, and H2 receptor antagonists. However, some people may prefer a more natural way to reduce symptoms.

There are also supplements that can help with GERD. There are several supplements that have been studied, like melatonin, ginger, and alginate, for their potential benefits.

This guide goes over supplements that can help with acid reflux and heartburn and how to choose a supplement for GERD.

Supplements that may help with GERD (acid reflux & heartburn)

There are several supplements and natural remedies that may relieve heartburn and other acid reflux symptoms. It is important to note that research is often limited on these supplements and not everyone responds the same way to certain supplements.

This information is not medical advice, but an overview of supplements that have been used for treating GERD. For some people, taking herbs and supplements may cause negative side effects or cause medicine interactions. Before taking anything new, it is always important to consult your doctor or other healthcare provider first.

Betaine HCL with pepsin

One cause of heartburn and acid reflux is low stomach acid or hydrochloric acid. In this case, taking betaine hydrochloride (HCL) might be beneficial.

Consuming betaine HCL may temporarily increase stomach acid for some people, which can speed up digestion and prevent acid reflux. 

Pepsin is a digestive enzyme that breaks down protein. One study in 2017 found that people with indigestion who took pepsin combined with an amino acid called hydrochloride experienced improvements in symptoms.

Betaine HCL supplements are often made with pepsin added to it. Together, this supplement can promote stomach acidity and improve digestion. Those who struggle with heartburn due to digestive issues and low stomach acid may find this supplement helpful in treating symptoms.

B vitamins

B vitamins are essential for various functions in the body, like helping your body convert the food you eat into energy. People often take B vitamins to maintain a healthy metabolism and to boost the health of skin and hair.

Research has suggested that increasing the intake of folate and other B vitamins might decrease the risk of reflux esophagitis, which is an inflamed esophagus caused by GERD. Due to limitations in this study, more research is needed to understand how B vitamins help.

Another study found that taking a dietary supplement that included B vitamins might be a good alternative to heartburn medication. However, because of other ingredients in this supplement, it is hard to say how much of the improvement was due to B vitamins.

Supplementing with B vitamins is relatively safe and some people have reported improvements in heartburn and acid reflux. However, more research is needed to prove its efficacy in helping GERD symptoms.

dietitian patient image

Get professional help managing acid reflux & heartburn

90% of Zaya Care patients pay $0 for visits with a Registered Dietitian

Iberogast

Iberogast is an herbal product that has a long history of using plants to relieve gastrointestinal symptoms. It includes nine different plant extracts like chamomile, lemon balm, peppermint, milk thistle, and licorice. It has been shown to help with heartburn, nausea, and stomach pain.

Several studies have proved that Iberogast is well-tolerated by most people and it can safely and effectively reduce indigestion and stomach pain. Because of its effectiveness, some people prefer Iberogast as a natural alternative to medications for GERD.

Because Iberogast contains several different herbs, you should speak with your doctor before taking it to ensure it is safe for you.

Ginger

The plant ginger has been used as an alternative to medicine for a variety of health benefits. Researchers believe ginger is so effective because of its strong anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger is commonly used as a natural remedy to soothe an upset stomach and relieve nausea. 

Research on ginger and GERD is limited. One small study found that taking three grams of powdered ginger every day for four weeks significantly improved symptoms like nausea, belching, bloating, heartburn, and epigastric pain.

Typically, few side effects are associated with taking ginger in small amounts. However, more clinical trials are needed to confirm its effectiveness in treating symptoms of GERD and to determine the most safe and effective dosage.

Probiotics

Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that support digestive health. While probiotics are well-known for their benefits on the lower digestive tract, little is known about their potential benefits on the upper digestive tract.

One review of 13 studies concluded that probiotics can be beneficial in relieving symptoms like regurgitation and heartburn. However, more trials with more participants are needed to confirm the effectiveness of probiotic use on GERD symptoms.

A more recent study examined the benefits of probiotic and prebiotic supplementation for patients who have been taking proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) long-term. This medication that is often prescribed to those with GERD has been shown to have negative side effects on the gut.

In this study, gut-related side effects from long-term PPI use were significantly reduced. While the benefits of probiotics for symptoms of GERD have not yet been established, probiotics may be beneficial for those who have digestive issues because of medications.

Calcium Carbonate

Calcium carbonate can quickly neutralize stomach acid, relieving heartburn, indigestion, and upset stomach. Calcium carbonate-based antacids are popular over-the-counter medications that typically come in the form of chewable tablets.

Calcium carbonate has been proven to be a fast-acting relief for heartburn and acid reflux. It is important to note that this supplement should be used only for short-term relief and should not be taken in large amounts to avoid side effects.

Calcium carbonate antacids may be a good option for those who experience occasional heartburn. However, it is not ideal for everyone, especially those with certain medical conditions or taking other medications.

Alginates

Alginates are naturally occurring compounds found in brown seaweed. Sodium alginate is a common form of alginate supplements.

Traditionally, alginates have been used for wound healing and drug delivery. More recent research has revealed the benefits alginates have on GERD symptoms.

Alginates relieve acid reflux symptoms in a unique way. When alginates reach your stomach, they turn into a gel at the top of your stomach. This helps block stomach contents from traveling up the esophagus.

A 2017 review concluded that supplementing with alginates may be a more effective treatment option for GERD symptoms compared to antacids, proton-pump inhibitors, and histamine-2 receptor antagonists.

For those who experience side effects from taking medication for GERD, alginates may be a more appealing alternative for mild symptoms. However, more research is needed to investigate the efficacy of using alginates for more severe cases of GERD.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone in your body that helps with your sleep-wake cycle. Taking a melatonin supplement is commonly used to help improve sleep quality. More recently, it has also been investigated for its potential role in treating acid reflux.

A 2014 study revealed that melatonin protects the esophageal lining. This is important to prevent further irritation of the esophagus. One small study found that melatonin, combined with heartburn medication, accelerated clinical improvements in GERD symptoms.

While research on melatonin appears to be promising for heartburn and acid reflux, further studies are needed to confirm its effectiveness. The long-term safety of routine melatonin use is also yet to be determined.

>> Find an acid reflux & heartburn nutritionist that accepts your insurance

How to decide which supplement you should take for heartburn and acid reflux

It can be hard to tell which supplement is the best for you to take. Before taking any, however, it is important that you speak with your doctor. Some factors that may affect your decision on which supplements to take include:

  • Frequency of heartburn. If you experience occasional heartburn from specific foods, certain products like calcium-containing antacids are good for immediate relief. If you struggle with more frequent symptoms of acid reflux, you may need to consider a supplement that is more relevant for long-term use.
  • Heartburn at night. If you experience heartburn more often at night time, taking melatonin might help soothe your symptoms and improve the quality of your sleep.
  • Lack of stomach acid. Heartburn and reflux symptoms can be caused by not having enough stomach acid. In this case, taking betaine HCL with pepsin may be helpful.
  • Medication interactions. It is important to note that some herbal supplements can interact with medications. If you are taking any medications, you should always consult your doctor first on which supplement would be safe for you to take to avoid interactions.
  • Side effects. Some supplements come with a risk of negative side effects, especially if consumed in large amounts. Knowing the potential side effects of certain supplements may affect your decision on which supplement you want to take.
  • Diet and lifestyle factors. Some people experience worse symptoms of GERD because of their diet habits or lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol use, stress, and being overweight. Before deciding on any supplements, check to see if there are changes in your nutrition or daily habits that can help get your symptoms under control.

Other natural home remedies for heartburn and acid reflux

Even if you are eating an ideal diet for GERD and taking supplements, there may still be times you need relief from acid reflux and heartburn. Here are some other natural home remedies and tips that may help with those issues:

  • Drink plenty of water. Drinking a lot of water each day can help dilute acid and flush out the esophagus. Water is also a neutral liquid, which can counteract acidic foods. 
  • Drink baking soda and water. Because baking soda in water creates an alkaline solution, it is often used to neutralize excess stomach acid. This is often used as an immediate relief for heartburn. 
  • Chew gum. Chewing gum produces more saliva, which causes you to swallow more. This can help clear the esophagus.
  • Use aloe vera juice. In a pilot study, aloe vera syrup was identified as a safe method to reduce heartburn, nausea, and food regurgitation. Aloe vera also contains anti-inflammatory properties, which may benefit symptoms of GERD. 
  • Drink apple cider vinegar and water. Although there is little evidence to confirm that apple cider vinegar and water is a safe and effective method for heartburn and acid reflux, many people use it as a natural remedy for quick relief. 
  • Eat plain yogurt or other probiotic-rich foods. Probiotics are well known for their benefits to gut health. In a systematic review of 13 studies, it was concluded that probiotic foods can be beneficial for GERD symptoms. Adding probiotic-rich foods like kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut to your diet may help reduce heartburn and acid reflux. 
  • Take an antacid. Antacids can be used as a quick relief for heartburn. Antacids counteract the acidity in your stomach, which helps alleviate acid reflux. 

>> Another Resource: Printable 7-Day GERD Diet Plan PDF

Why you should consider working with a GERD nutritionist

While taking supplements for GERD can be helpful, following a proper diet is even more important. If you are not choosing the right foods to eat on a regular basis, the supplements you take will not work as well.

Managing heartburn and acid reflux through diet can be challenging to do by yourself. Working with a GERD nutritionist will bring you clarity to your individual nutrition needs. A nutritionist can also identify any gaps in your current diet, where nutrition supplementation might be necessary. For example, your nutritionist may recommend eating an alkaline diet for GERD to help your symptoms or can help you make sure you’re getting all essential nutrients while eating a plant-based diet for GERD.

A GERD nutritionist is trained to help you make the right decisions with your nutrition while considering your personal preferences, tolerances, and symptoms. By working with a GERD nutritionist, you will have a personal plan that meets your needs, prevents symptoms, and that you can follow long-term.

Here at Zaya Care, we can match you with GERD nutritionists that are covered by your insurance. You can browse our network of nutritionists and filter by things like visit type, languages spoken, insurance accepted, and more to find your fit.

dietitian patient image

Get professional help managing acid reflux & heartburn

90% of Zaya Care patients pay $0 for visits with a Registered Dietitian

Kamryn is a Registered Dietitian who specializes in performance nutrition and weight management. She has experience in a variety of settings as a dietitian, including sports, clinical, and private practice. She currently provides individualized nutrition and fitness coaching to adult men and women. Kamryn is passionate about using evidence-based nutrition strategies to help people achieve long-term success with their fitness goals and to maintain a healthier lifestyle.