This page includes complementary and alternative treatments some claim can help treat excess acid. Research evidence seems to be lacking in the great majority of cases so claims presented here are mainly anecdotal.
The long list presented on this page includes treatments which some people have found useful. They are not provided as a recommendations but for information only. If you wish to try any of them, you do so in this knowledge.
Whilst complementary treatments may be beneficial for some in reducing some symptoms, it is not recommended they are used as an alternative to replace conventional treatment. Complementary treatments should always be notified and discussed with your doctor in case of harmful interactions with prescribed medication.
Most fruits and vegetables may have beneficial properties for acid reflux sufferers.
By chewing gum, more saliva is produced which can help neutralise excess acid.
The active component of Turmeric is curcumin. Currently there is no research evidence to show that turmeric or curcumin can prevent or treat cancer but early trials have shown some promising results.
A number of studies have shown curcumin can kill some cancer cells and prevent more from growing.
In an American study reported in 2008, "25 patients had curcumin treatment and 21 had tumours that could be measured. In 2 patients their tumours shrank or remained stable. In some patients their levels of particular immune system chemicals that destroy cancer cells went up. But the researchers found that blood levels of curcumin were very low because it is not well absorbed from the gut. Scientists have since developed injectable, fat soluble forms of curcumin which may improve the results." [r-xlvii]
Some people swear by ginger root tea as a preparation for the stomach before food. It is made by steeping cut pieces of ginger root in simmering water for half an hour and proponents say to drink a cupful half an hour before you eat claiming it acts as some sort of buffer to acid production.
There are many claims made for Aloe Vera. It's main use as a balm is to soothe abrasions. This may explain its popularity for those with acid reflux or oesophagitis.
Cancer Research UK has carried out research into the healing properties of Aloe and the claims made for it. They found there was no evidence to suggest that aloe vera works but many patients say that they have found aloe helpful. Some early research seems to suggest that it may help wounds to heal. Early studies of aloe substances in laboratory animals seem to suggest that some of the chemicals found in aloe may have helpful effects on the immune system and can shrink some cancers.
Some users of Aloe may experience side effects of diarrhoea, nausea and stomach pain.
Aloe vera may interact with other drugs or herbs so always talk to your doctor before you begin taking it.
"Once people begin taking aloe supplements regularly, they tend to develop a tolerance, requiring increased doses to maintain the effect. As the dose increases, safety is of increasing concern: case reports of fatalities and severe kidney dysfunction have been reported with high doses." [U.S.News - Health & Wellness]
The active ingredient of Slippery elm is a polysaccharide called mucilage that makes a slippery gel when wet.
As with Aloe Vera, Slippery Elm is a soothing balm and may help digestive motility by stimulating the secretion of mucous in the digestive tract.
It is not recommended in people who have kidney or liver problems the plants contain chemicals called oxalates which can damage the liver and kidneys.
As with Aloe Vera and Slippery Elm above, liquorice is a demulcent forming a soothing layer over inflammation and possibly increasing production of mucous thus possibly providing symptom relief.
"However, while licorice contains beneficial phytochemicals, it also contains glycyrrhizic acid, which is associated with side effects. To counter this, a modified form of the botanical medicine, known as deglycyrrhizinated licorice, or DGL licorice, is available. Although considered safer, DGL licorice may still pose certain health risks." [Livestrong]
"Green tea is a drink made from the dried leaves of the Asian plant Camellia sinensis. This tea is drunk widely across Asia. The rates of many cancers are much lower in Asia than other parts of the world. Some people believe this is because of the high intake of green tea. The substance in green tea that researchers think is most helpful is called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). EGCG is available as green tea extract which some people take as a supplement in liquid or capsules." [Cancer Research UK]
"Fifty-one studies with more than 1.6 million participants, mainly of observational nature were included in this systematic review. Studies looked for an association between green tea consumption and cancer of the digestive tract, ... The evidence that the consumption of green tea might reduce the risk of cancer was conflicting. This means, that drinking green tea remains unproven in cancer prevention, but appears to be safe at moderate, regular and habitual use." [Cochrane review]
Apple Cider Vinegar
Proponents of apple cider vinegar suggest two to three teaspoonfuls should be stirred into a small glass of water to be consumed before every meal and offer two alternative theories as to why it may work.
1. By providing acid to the stomach before food, the stomach may be fooled into expecting more acid and therefore doesn't need to produce so much.
2. The Lower Oesophageal Sphincter muscles are activated to tighten by acid; drinking ACV before a meal "wakes up" the LOS.
Both of these claims, however, fail to recognise the comparative strengths of stomach acid, which can dissolve metal and would produce scarring if spilled on the skin, and ACV whose only effect on the skin would be to make it feel wet.
A paper "Is Apple Cider Vinegar Effective for Reducing Heartburn?" published in 2015 [a-xxiii] found, "compared to the placebo trial, the vinegar trials do not show significant alleviation of the heartburn sensation and an article published in "Foods 4 Better Heath" in February 2017 [a-xxiv] warned about side effects of drinking too much ACV.
One recipe suggests: "To neutralize stomach acids, add more alkalinity to your stomach. Mix a squeeze of lemon (about 1-2 tsp) in a cup of warm water. This will raise your alkaline level." [Philippine Daily Enquirer magazine]
However there is no evidence to suggest or support the theory and no explanation is presented as to why acid lemon juice should increase alkalinity.
Some claim that a teaspoon of made mustard eaten straight can help neutralise acid reflux if taken immediately it is noticed. Proponents assert it to be alkaline and thus neutralises stomach acid.
There are a number of medicinal properties for honey, the main ones being its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Sterilised medical grade honey may be used as a wound dressing.
Honey is sometimes used in cough medication or for sore throats. Along with the properties noted above, it's texture and mucous inducing properties have a soothing influence.
However, research evidence that it may help with gastrointestinal problems is lacking.
Kombucha tea is brewed using kombucha which is a type of yeast, black tea and sugar. The resulting alcoholic vinegary drink has many health claims attributed to it. However none have been substantiated and no explanation has been provided why it should benefit acid reflux sufferers.
There have, however, been reports of adverse effects, such as stomach upset, infections and allergic reactions in kombucha tea drinkers.
The Mayo Clinic in America says "there isn't good evidence that kombucha tea delivers on its health claims. At the same time, several cases of harm have been reported. Therefore, the prudent approach is to avoid kombucha tea until more definitive information is available."
Peppermint is often used as an aid for digestion problems. "Peppermint water can relieve trapped wind and so relieve pain. Put a few drops of peppermint oil in hot water and sip it slowly." [Cancer Research UK]
Clinical trials have proved it beneficial for lower gastric tract problems such as irritable bowel.
However, it works by relaxing the pyloric sphincter muscles which helps the egress of bile to assist digestion and relieving pressure building up at the stomach exit. By relaxing the Lower Oesophageal also, it helps release trapped gas from the stomach but also exacerbates gastro-oesophageal reflux so those with acid reflux should avoid it.
There have been many studies into the medicinal properties of cannabinoids (eg marijuana) with many on-going around the world presently. Beneficial properties are being found particularly in areas of pain relief. Like Peppermint, the benefits of the drug are as a muscle relaxant.
There are many claims made for benefits of the drug on gastric problems. MedicalMarijuana.com claims, "Research suggests that cannabis is effective in treating the symptoms of these GI disorders in part because it interacts with the endogenous cannabinoid receptors in the digestive tract, which can result in calming spasms, assuaging pain, and improving motility. Cannabis has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and recent research shows crucial neuromodulatory roles in controlling the operation of the gastrointestinal system, with synthetic and natural cannabinoids acting powerfully to control gastrointestinal motility and inflammation." but, although a list of references is published on the site, it hasn't been possible to find the paper this quotes.
The concern is, like Peppermint above, the "calming" and "improving motility" may also exacerbate reflux.
Cancer Research UK issue this advice: "Although centuries of human experimentation tells us that naturally-occurring cannabinoids are broadly safe, they are not without risks. They can increase the heart rate, which may cause problems for patients with pre-existing or undiagnosed heart conditions. They can also interact with other drugs in the body, including antidepressants and antihistamines. And they may also affect how the body processes certain chemotherapy drugs, which could cause serious side effects."
This age old remedy is the basis of most antacids like Tums or Rennie which are immediate acting by neutralising the stomach acid. Baking Soda is the chemical Sodium Bicarbonate, NaHCO3. (Antacids may use other similar compounds such as calcium carbonate or magnesium carbonate but they have a similar effect.)
Chemically, this reaction takes place:
NaHCO3 + HCl → NaCl + H2O + CO2
(Sodium Biarbonate + Hydrochloric acid gives Sodium Chloride (table salt) plus water and carbon dioxide)
It has been suggested that 3 or 4 almonds eaten after a meal may help prevent reflux.
N.B. Some may experience an adverse reaction to almonds which can produce migraine attacks in some people.
Eating an apple or a banana a day are also suggested. Many fruits have been shown to be beneficial to health.
Books on how to cure your acid reflux may be found being sold as downloads on the internet extolling the values of different fruits for curing acid reflux. Most of these appear to exist primarily as a source of income for their authors who usually have no medical qualification.
Japanese Apricot has recently been found to be a possible aid to motility. In 2010, GORD-related symptoms were examined in 1303 Japanese individuals using a validated questionnaire. Those who consumed Japanese Apricot daily (either dried or pickled) showed significantly improved scores compared with subjects who did not. [r-xlviii]