Probiotics are promoted as an option for treating acid reflux disease, but although these “good” bacteria undoubtedly change the bacterial composition in the patient’s system, medical research on the subject is just beginning.
Heartburn is usually associated with acid reflux, meaning the acid in the stomach escapes into the esophagus, causing damage to the throat and leading to potentially significant health problems. Those acids escape the stomach because the lower esophageal sphincter, essentially the door between the esophagus and the stomach, won’t stay closed.
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Generally accepted causes of acid reflux are obesity, eating certain foods, heavy meals before bedtime, pregnancy, smoking, and others, WebMD said
. As many as one in five people in the United States have GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, LiveStrong reported
Online, many resources recommend using probiotics to fight GERD or heartburn. Initial medical studies show the treatment may be effective. One study of 34 infants found Lactobacillus reuteri, a specific strain of probiotic bacteria, helped babies fight regurgitation problems, LiveStrong said. Another study looking at 1,000 adults with heartburn found probiotics, combined with digestive enzymes and stevia, “reduced acid reflux pain,” the site said.
One reason the introduction of beneficial bacteria into the system may fight GERD is that research into the causes of the disease is beginning to identify bacterial overgrowth as a problem. U.S. News & World Report said
SIBO, or Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth, is being implicated in both acid reflux disease as well as irritable bowel syndrome and other stomach problems that cause bloating.
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In reviews of probiotics research in 2014, the National Institutes of Health found
that 43 studies of probiotics for IBS symptoms, which include bloating, gas, and reflux found "probiotics had beneficial effects on global IBS symptoms, abdominal pain, bloating, and flatulence scores; however, the species and strains that provide the most beneficial effects are unclear."
Another 2010 review said 19 controlled trials found probiotics "were significantly better than placebo, but the level of benefit and the most effective species and strain remain uncertain."
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