Alternative and Complementary Treatments for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
What is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic condition in which stomach acid backflows into the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that connects the mouth and stomach. GERD is a chronic and severe form of acid reflux that occurs at least twice per week or has a duration of weeks to months with each occurrence
Alternative and complementary treatments for GERD
In addition to conventional and at-home treatments, there are several alternative and complementary options available for the treatment of GERD. They include herbs, supplements, traditional Chinese medicine, or hypnotherapy.
Herbs have been historically used to manage GERD symptoms. Any GERD treatment should be discussed with a health care professional, as some herbs and supplements may interact poorly with certain medications or conditions.
- Peppermint oil
Peppermint oil is often used to treat indigestion, nausea, and stomach problems. Research shows that it may also improve GERD symptoms. Peppermint oil should never be taken in combination with antacids, as this may increase the risk of heartburn.
- Ginger root
Ginger is known to treat nausea and other gastrointestinal issues that can occur with GERD, such as heartburn. Its anti-inflammatory properties are believed to reduce swelling and irritation of the esophagus. Ginger root generally has very few side effects, although consuming too much may lead to heartburn.
- Other herbs
Although there is no clinical evidence to support the effectiveness, other herbs used in GERD treatment include caraway, garden angelica, German chamomile flower, greater celandine, licorice root, lemon balm, milk thistle, turmeric, marshmallow root, and slippery elm. These herbs are mainly found in health food stores.
Some supplements have been shown to relieve GERD symptoms. They include vitamins and melatonin.
Studies are exploring the effectiveness of vitamins A, C and E in preventing GERD. Vitamins are typically only recommended if a person has a deficiency and is unable to receive the required amount from their food and environment. A physician can order a blood test to determine any deficiencies present.
Melatonin supplements are primarily used as a sleep aid. Some studies suggest they may be useful in relieving GERD symptoms when combined with other forms of treatment.
Traditional Chinese medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) may help with the treatment of GERD. TCM has been used for centuries as a way to address health issues.
Acupuncture is performed by an experienced and licensed professional and involves the insertion of fine, thin needles into the skin at specific points of the body. It is described as a method to balance the flow of energy (chi or qi) via pathways through the body. Acupuncture practitioners believe that the strategic placement of the needles stimulates muscles, nerves, and connective tissues. Many alternative medical professionals believe this stimulation increases natural pain-fighting chemicals and boosts blood flow in the body. Acupuncture has been shown to decrease acid reflux and GERD symptoms. Although new, electroacupuncture (EA), which is another form of acupuncture that uses electrical current along with the needles, has also shown significant improvement for GERD symptoms.
- Chinese herbal medicine
In traditional Chinese medicine, the standard recipe to treat GERD includes Sini Powder and the Zuojin Pill, although there is not enough scientific evidence to support this. More testing must be performed to verify long-term effects and clinical mechanisms.
Clinical hypnosis involves a person reaching a focused state. It can reduce abdominal pain, bloating, anxiety, and unhealthy bowel movements. Studies on hypnotherapy are limited; however, it has shown to be effective for treating GERD symptoms.