Healthy Q & A: Natural Relief for GERD


I have GERD and have been dealing with it for years.  I’ve heard there are some natural things that might help with it, so do you have any recommendations for things that can make it easier to live with?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a chronic digestive disease where acids from the stomach flow or reflux back into the esophagus.  Signs of GERD include acid reflux and heartburn.  When acid reflux or heartburn occur more than twice or three times a week, or interferes with daily life, doctors often diagnose it as GERD.  

Unfortunately once GERD begins, it is usually a life-long condition, where a person would work on managing the symptoms rather than trying to cure the problem.  GERD is unable to be cured in most cases since it is caused by a weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter muscle, which keeps acid in the stomach and out of the esophagus.  

Since GERD is a problem that needs lifelong treatment for most people, it’s helpful to find natural products that can help manage the symptoms rather than medications if it all possible.

Digestive enzymes are especially helpful for those suffering from heartburn and GERD.  A major contributing factor of GERD is indigestion or overeating.  A large amount of undigested food sitting in the stomach is a recipe for digestive troubles.  Our bodies naturally produce the enzymes needed for digestion, though as we age the amounts of those enzymes decrease. Cooking and processing foods destroys the enzymes in the foods we eat, so adding an enzyme supplement helps to replace those enzymes.  People taking acid blockers, which are commonly used for GERD, especially need to supplement with digestive enzymes since reducing the amount of acid in the stomach further impairs the body’s ability to digest food properly.

Look for an enzyme that is high in protease, the protein digesting enzyme.  Pancreatin is an especially good choice for people with GERD.

Another supplement that can be very effective in treating GERD is DGL licorice.  DGL stands for deglycyrrhizinated licorice. Licorice naturally contains a substance which can increase blood pressure, but DGL licorice has that substance removed, so it can be taken by people with blood pressure problems.  

DGL licorice comes in chewable tablets, and helps to treat GERD by supporting and stimulating the mucosal lining in the esophagus.  It helps to heal and protect the esophagus from the acid which is refluxed into the esophagus with GERD.  Since it works to protect and heal the esophagus, it also helps to reduce the pain and burning associated with heartburn and GERD.

A chewable licorice supplement might sound gross to some.  I for one cannot stand the taste of black licorice, but DGL is available in delicious flavors which can make it really easy to take. The company Enzymatic Therapy even makes one that tastes just like german chocolate cake. DGL licorice should be taken 20 minutes before a meal, and chewed thoroughly since the enzymes in saliva help it to work more effectively.

There are several other supplements which can be beneficial in addition to enzymes and DGL licorice.  Probiotics or “good bacteria” supplements can help to support and balance the body’s digestive system.  Aloe vera juice is also very soothing to the digestive tract.  

The nice thing about the supplements I’ve listed is that they work by supporting the body’s own ability to heal itself and to work properly instead of simply masking symptoms or being a “quick fix” like an antacid would.

Other suggestions which can help those with GERD would be to make sure to chew food thoroughly which aids digestion.  Smaller, more frequent meals with increased amounts of raw fruits and vegetables can also help with reducing the symptoms of GERD.