The Connection Between Probiotics and Acid Reflux: Fact or Fiction?

Probiotics and Acid Reflux Connection

We face many health problems regularly and use certain products to overcome them. Sometimes, our issues are caused by particular foods, drinks, and medications. Other times, the issues result from a genetic predisposition to the problem, though the details vary by person. However, regardless of the issue or what causes it, there is a universal desire to resolve it so we can return to a comfortable quality of life. 

For example, one common issue people face is acid reflux, which can make eating and speaking an uncomfortable experience. Acid reflux is relatively common, but there are concerns that the growing rate at which it is diagnosed is connected to what we regularly consume.

Modern consumers have recently begun using probiotics to improve their health and reduce the rate of certain issues. Probiotics have become a major industry despite being centuries old and existing before the general public was made aware of them. Nevertheless, probiotics are a growing superpower in the holistic healthcare industry and are readily available in most grocery stores and supermarkets. While probiotics have a growing list of supporters, some people question their validity and want to understand their connection to acid reflux. 

Understanding whether probiotics help or induce acid reflux is critical to avoiding or treating the condition. The question is: is the connection between probiotics and acid reflux fact or fiction?

Understanding GERD

Despite the infamous name, acid reflux is not the official designation for the health condition afflicting many people. The disease's real name is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), though the odd nomenclature does not reduce the severity. GERD can range from a minor condition that only slightly disrupts the patient's quality of life to a detrimental condition that radically alters one's physical state. 

Standard acid reflux is something we all experience over brief periods, with a few minor episodes occurring when our stomachs struggle to digest something. When acid reflux is a consistent, repeating issue, you likely have GERD, though the severity might vary. Usually, GERD does not cause serious issues and can be lived with by making minor lifestyle changes to mitigate the symptoms. In rare cases, GERD is severe enough to warrant corrective surgery to eliminate or reduce the symptoms.

While the more severe cases of GERD are rare, they are a potential issue we must consider since everyone's reaction to the disease is different. Regardless of the particulars of your GERD, certain factors are consistent across all patients. Primarily, most GERD patients share an overlap of symptoms and either have the same symptoms or a couple of the same ones.

Woman Experiencing Symptoms of GERD

Among the most common signs of GERD are:

  • A burning sensation in the chest, usually after eating, that is worse at night or while lying down.
  • Regurgitation of food or a sour liquid.
  • Chest or upper abdominal pain.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • The sensation of a lump in your throat.

More severe cases of GERD can also induce respiratory issues like asthma or laryngitis that usually occur at night. If the symptoms reach a point where you begin experiencing chest, jaw, or arm pain, you might also be experiencing cardiovascular issues and should seek medical attention. Unfortunately, the biggest issue with GERD is that several risk factors could cause it to manifest. The main risk factors include:

  1. Obesity
  2. Hiatal Hernia
  3. Pregnancy
  4. Connective Tissue Disorders
  5. Delayed Stomach Emptying
  6. Smoking
  7. Large Meals
  8. Fatty Foods
  9. Alcohol
  10. Medication

These can contribute to contracting GERD, though other factors cannot be gauged without medical expertise. Nevertheless, GERD and acid reflux are common issues that can affect anyone depending on their physical health. Understanding the details behind GERD makes it easier to address, but there is still the question of how probiotics relate to GERD and acid reflux.

How Do Probiotics Affect GERD?

Probiotics are a growing sensation in modern society, with many holistic medicine enthusiasts using them to bolster their health. Despite the growing sensation of probiotics, there are concerns about whether they induce GERD symptoms or exacerbate acid reflux. The concern surrounding probiotics and acid reflux is warranted since probiotics are known to cause gastrointestinal reactions. 

Generally, the effects of probiotics are beneficial despite a brief adjustment period where the body acclimates to the new organisms. Despite the discomfort associated with this adjustment period, you might be surprised to learn that probiotics might not exacerbate GERD symptoms.

In reality, there is a growing trend of people using probiotics to combat GERD and acid reflux. The probiotic organisms found in certain food and supplements have been linked to improved gastrointestinal health, making them a viable tool for patients with GERD. Because acid reflux revolves around stomach acid traveling back up the esophagus and inflaming the esophageal tube, maintaining healthy stomach acid levels is essential to treating the issue. 

Fortunately, the main selling point for probiotics is that they are known for improving digestive health, including our digestive acids. Probiotic organisms synergize with the healthy bacteria that call our gastrointestinal tract home, providing a symbiosis that helps them maintain their population. When the bacterium in our gastrointestinal tract is out of balance, it is common for certain gastrointestinal issues like acid reflux to spike. This is because the bacterium in our gastrointestinal tract keeps things like our stomach acid level balanced.

Probiotic Gut Bacteria

When our stomach acid levels are too high, or the environment in our stomach is disrupted due to bacterial imbalances, it is more likely to travel back up the esophagus. Fortunately, probiotic consumption has been linked to restoring balance in gastrointestinal bacteria. This means probiotics can be used to reduce the impact of bacterial imbalance by giving the stomach time to repopulate the colony. Additionally, probiotics from the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus genii have been linked to reducing the symptoms of conditions exacerbating gastrointestinal distress.

Specifically, probiotics from those genii have been found to improve symptoms of conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. These conditions are bowel diseases that have little to do with acid reflux. Nevertheless, this illustrates the extent of what probiotics can offer concerning bodily gastrointestinal disorders. There are also studies indicating that probiotics possess anti-inflammatory properties. 

This is important since one of the main symptoms of acid reflux is inflammation of the esophagus, which causes pain and irritation. Consuming an anti-inflammatory probiotic can reduce these symptoms and make life more comfortable following a flare-up.

That said, there is another major benefit afforded by probiotics that reinforces their effect against acid reflux. Specifically, there is a direct connection between probiotic consumption and reduced low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels in the body. LDL, colloquially known as "bad cholesterol," is directly linked to cardiovascular health issues and contributes to heart disease. Probiotic organisms have been found to reduce LDL levels and therefore reduce the risk of heart disease.

You might be curious about how this impacts acid reflux, and the answer lies in how probiotics remove excess LDL from the body. Probiotic organisms are capable of breaking down bile in the body that is saturated with LDL. While this function goes a long way toward keeping your cholesterol level reasonable, it also reduces the amount of bile that can travel up your esophagus. This can help reduce the severity of your acid reflux or GERD since there is less bile present in your stomach. This is not a foolproof method for countering GERD, but it can make the symptoms more manageable, so it is less painful or consistent. 

Side Effects of Probiotics

When introducing a new substance to your diet, it is reasonable to be concerned about the potential side effects it might elicit. The same concern is present with probiotics, especially for people who have never used them. Fortunately, there is good news insofar as probiotics are concerned.

The major side effects of probiotics are temporary bloating, constipation, and gas in the early stages of use. This occurs because the new bacteria strains in your body have to adapt to the new environment and will alter it slightly to ensure synergy with the existing colonies. These effects are temporary and will fade after a brief period, though some people are incompatible with certain probiotic mediums. If your side effects persist for a long time, discontinue use, and consult with a physician to determine the issue. Fortunately, this is rare and should not be an issue.

Woman Experiencing Minor Side Effects

Unfortunately, the symptoms of GERD are severe enough in most cases that probiotics are insufficient as a standalone tool. You will likely need to make lifestyle changes that reduce the symptoms and severity of your GERD.

Other Methods to Control GERD

Probiotics are extremely useful for keeping your GERD in check and ensuring you do not suffer the most aggressive symptoms. Unfortunately, you will likely have to make serious lifestyle changes to prevent recurring symptoms since probiotics are not a cure. Ultimately, there is no effective cure for GERD, and altering how you live your life and using acid-reducing substances is the only treatment. 

To treat your GERD, you must first alter your diet to reduce the number of acidic foods you consume. Acidic foods can irritate the acid in your stomach and trigger episodes of acid reflux. Reducing your intake will reduce the number of episodes and make the ones you have less painful. Cutting out acidic food is only one of the things you can do to curb your GERD. You should also commit to a healthy meal schedule with reasonable portions to avoid overloading your digestive system.

Cutting Out Acidic and Fried Foods

The more you eat in a single sitting, the more stomach acid your body needs to break down within the set digestive period. Excessive portions, especially late at night, can overburden the digestive tract and induce acid reflux. This is especially taxing on people with GERD since they are already prone to acid reflux episodes. You should also minimize your consumption of fried, fatty foods that might disrupt your gastrointestinal tract. Changing your diet is essential to ensuring your GERD is not constantly affecting your quality of life. Unfortunately, poor diet is not the only contributor to GERD that you must account for to reduce the symptoms.

You must also cut back on your consumption of alcohol and coffee, both of which have been linked to exacerbated GERD symptoms. Coffee is acidic, while alcohol can irritate the digestive system, so excess consumption of either could increase your acid reflux. Finally, you should attempt to quit smoking or reduce the number of cigarettes you use monthly. Tobacco products can irritate the stomach and induce nausea when used excessively, meaning they can exacerbate your GERD or cause acid reflux. Reducing your use of cigarettes and other nicotine products, preferably with the intent to quit smoking entirely, can help reduce the effect it has on your GERD.

Keep it All Natural

Acid reflux is a common enough issue that a large percentage of Americans deal with chronic episodes. GERD is increasingly common because the instigating factors (fast food, cigarettes, and alcohol) are extremely common and easily accessible. This has led to a spike in GERD cases nationwide, though other causes are equally serious. 

Nevertheless, GERD can be manageable if you employ the proper precautions and tools to minimize the symptoms. Probiotics can be a powerful tool for improving overall health and reducing the symptoms of GERD and acid reflux. The real challenge is finding a probiotic supplement that allows you to overcome the weaknesses of natural probiotics (i.e., the prevalence of dairy-based probiotics).

A Probiotic Supplement

Dealing with acid reflux, or any condition, is never fun, and we are prepared to offer tools that can enhance your health. We encourage you to visit our website and try our products yourself. As always, however, no matter your decision, always remember to keep it all natural!

If you have any questions about probiotics, their connection with acid reflux, or anything similar, be sure to let us know! You're always more than free to leave a comment in the section down below, and we'll get back to you as soon as possible! We're so excited to hear from you, and we'll be happy to help you out however we can!

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