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Probiotics for GERD symptoms: Do they work?

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Probiotics for GERDSourcesProbiotic typesCautionGERD treatmentSummary
Evidence suggests some probiotics may help with GERD symptoms. More research is needed to validate their efficacy and caution is advised in some cases. 
Medically reviewed by Alisha D. Sellers, BS Pharmacy, PharmD
Written by Uxshely Carcamo
Updated on

Acid reflux is when acid from your stomach comes back up to your throat via your food pipe. It may be temporary and occasional, or it may be persistent and long lasting. When that is the case, it may lead to complications like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

The symptoms of GERD may include: 

  • belching
  • having an acid taste in your mouth 
  • experiencing heartburn (a burning feeling in your chest) 
  • regurgitating your food after eating 
  • swallowing with difficulty 
  • experiencing a persistent sore throat
  • having bad breath
  • coughing

Some research suggests that probiotics may help with GERD. Probiotics are foods and supplements that contain helpful, live microorganisms (usually bacteria and sometimes yeasts). These microorganisms may benefit your gut and overall health. 

Can you treat GERD with probiotics? 

Pickled food that serves as probiotics for GERD
Martí Sans/Stocksy United

GERD typically requires medical treatment. You cannot treat GERD with probiotics, but evidence suggests probiotics may help you reduce some of the symptoms: 

  • 2020 review of 13 studies found that probiotics help some people with GERD symptoms, such as reflux, belching, and abdominal pain. The evidence is mixed, however, with some of the studies showing no significant improvements in GERD symptoms. The authors suggest that larger and longer studies are needed to validate the findings. 
  • 2018 study of children with GERD indicated that combining probiotics and acid reflux medications efficiently helped to manage the condition and reduce drug side effects. 
  • 2022 review found that eating yogurt with probiotics helps to reduce GERD symptoms in some cases.

Probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, or kimchi may improve overall gut health and help people with acid reflux and GERD.

Probiotics offer other benefits for your health. Probiotics may benefit conditions like: 

However, some probiotics might interact with medications. Always ask a healthcare professional about taking probiotics with your medication.

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Sources of probiotics 

Fermented foods and drinks like yogurt often contain probiotics. These often contain good bacterial strains like Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus.  

Other foods and drinks contain live cultures, but they may not contain proven probiotic microorganisms. These foods include: 

If you lean into probiotic-rich foods to improve your GERD symptoms, you may want to opt for low fat options. Research suggests that high fat diets may trigger acid reflux or make GERD symptoms worse for some people. 

Probiotics also come in the form of supplements that contain live bacteria that may benefit your gut and GERD symptoms. These supplements will indicate if the microorganisms they contain are suitable for acid reflux.  

What types of probiotics are recommended for GERD and acid reflux? 

Certain types of live bacteria may be more helpful than others for GERD symptoms. For example: 

  • Bifidobacterium bifidum YIT 10347 may improve mucus production in the stomach and strengthen the gut’s barrier against acidic fluids. A 2020 review also suggests that this bacterium and bifidobacterium lactis HN019 may help with symptoms like food regurgitation. 
  • Lactobacillus johnsonii No. 1088 may reduce acid production in the stomach, relieving some acid reflux symptoms. 
  • Lactobacillus gasseri LG21 may help with reflux symptoms by increasing the production of an enzyme in the stomach that helps with digestion. 

When looking for probiotic supplements for GERD, look for some of these bacterial strains.

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Precautions 

Many healthcare professionals and other experts consider probiotic foods safe to include in your diet regularly unless you have an allergy or intolerance to them.

However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor probiotics sold as dietary supplements. This may compromise their safety. Consider asking your healthcare professional for advice on the best brands and sources of probiotics. 

Probiotics may also impact how your body absorbs medication and nutrients. Ask your healthcare professional whether this applies to you or how much time you should leave between taking a prescription drug and a probiotic.

How is GERD treated? 

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications may help you manage GERD symptoms. However, these medications are often unsuitable for long-term use.

If you live with severe or persistent symptoms, your healthcare professional may recommend a combination of OTC and prescription medications:

  • H2 Blockers: These reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces. Some H2 blockers are available OTC, but others will require a prescription. 
  • Antacids: These help to neutralize stomach acid for mild heartburn symptoms and are available without a prescription. Antacid ingredients are meant for temporary relief and short-term acid reflux management. 
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): Available as OTC or prescription medications, PPIs reduce how much acid your stomach makes.

Lifestyle modifications may also help you manage GERD, including:

  • managing your weight
  • stopping tobacco use
  • reducing caffeine and alcohol intake 
  • limiting your meal size and avoiding heavy meals in the evenings
  • raising the head of your bed by 6-8 inches
  • not lying down for 2-3 hours after eating

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Summary

Some evidence suggests probiotics may help with GERD symptoms. More research is needed to determine whether probiotics can manage all types of acid reflux. 

Probiotic-rich foods and probiotic supplements may offer additional health benefits. Consult with a healthcare professional before adding any of these to your diet, as some may interact with medications. 

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

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