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7 Best Probiotics For Acid Reflux for Symptom Relief

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Probiotics may help reduce symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), but more high-quality studies are needed.  
  • Species of bacteria within the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium groups are most associated with benefits for acid reflux. 
  • Different strains of probiotics may be more effective depending on the root cause of your acid reflux. Talk to your doctor about the best option for you.

You may have heard about some of the benefits of probiotics on the lower digestive tract, like balancing the gut microbiome and reducing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 

Researchers are trying to understand how probiotics may help conditions that impact the upper digestive tract, like acid reflux.

Preliminary studies show that specific probiotic strains may be an effective treatment option for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). 

Read this article to learn the best probiotics for acid reflux and tips for choosing high-quality brands.  

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Benefits of Probiotics for Acid Reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a term that describes chronic acid reflux or the regurgitation of stomach acid into the esophagus.

It’s a common condition often resulting in a painful burning sensation known as heartburn. 

Current treatments primarily focus on diet and lifestyle changes along with medication therapy.

Researchers are studying certain strains of probiotics as another option for managing GERD.

A 2020 review examined 14 studies on the effect of probiotics on adults with GERD.

Eleven of these studies (79%) showed an improvement in acid reflux symptoms related to probiotic use.

Most of the studies administered the probiotics through either fermented dairy products or probiotic supplements.

The same review found that out of the 11 studies showing the benefits of probiotics on acid reflux, nine also showed improvements in other upper GI symptoms, such as nausea, belching, and upset stomach. 

However, the reviewers identified that many of these studies were low quality, highlighting the need for more randomized controlled trials on the subject. 

7 Dietitian-Approved Probiotics for Acid Reflux

Each probiotic supplement contains a different mixture of beneficial bacteria strains.

The list below summarizes the best probiotic strains for acid reflux to look for when shopping for supplements. 

Be sure to talk to your doctor or dietitian before starting a probiotic supplement for treating digestive symptoms. 

1. Lactobacillus gasseri

A 2017 randomized controlled study examined the impact of a Lactobacillus strain called L. gasseri on people with functional dyspepsia, a condition associated with acid reflux, stomach pain, and bloating.

The treatment group was instructed to eat 85 g (around ⅓ cup) of yogurt containing L. gasseri daily for 12 weeks.

The participants reported a reduction in acid reflux after four weeks, which continued to improve after eight weeks. 

The researchers suspect this improvement was related to L. gasseri decreasing inflammation in the esophagus and improving the rate of stomach emptying. 

2. Bifidobacterium bifidum

A 2015 trial studied the benefits of B. bifidum on gastric symptoms like acid reflux.

Participants were instructed to consume around half a cup daily of fermented milk that contained B. bifidum.

After two weeks, the number of participants reporting one or more gastric symptoms decreased from 45% to 28%

B. bifidum may help acid reflux by increasing the production of mucin, a protective mucous layer in the stomach.

It can also stimulate the stomach to empty faster, which can reduce symptoms.

3. Bifidobacterium lactis

In some cases, acid reflux may result from delayed gastric emptying.

When this occurs, food sits in the stomach longer than it should, increasing the risk of regurgitation.

Research shows that B. lactis supplementation may help increase the rate at which food moves through the stomach and the rest of the digestive tract (known as gut motility).

This improvement may result in fewer GI symptoms like nausea and regurgitation.

4. Lactobacillus acidophilus

L. acidophilus is one of the most common strains of Lactobacillus found in probiotic supplements.

It has many possible health benefits, from lowering cholesterol to improving gut health. 

A 2006 study looked at the effects of a probiotic supplement containing L. acidophilus and B. bifidum on people with functional gastrointestinal disorders.

After taking the probiotic for 12 weeks, participants reported improvements in indigestion and abdominal pain. 

However, these improvements were not statistically significant, showing the need for more research

5. Lactobacillus rhamnosus

L. rhamnosus may benefit people on medication therapy for GERD when combined with other probiotic strains from the Lactobacillus family.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are the most common medications used to treat acid reflux.

However, chronic use of PPIs decreases stomach acid production and may lead to bacterial overgrowth in the stomach.

Having less stomach acid may allow harmful bacteria to grow more easily. 

A small 2012 study found that people on PPI therapy who took a probiotic supplement containing L. rhamnosus experienced a reduction in bacterial overgrowth.

They also had significantly fewer harmful bacteria species present. 

6. Lactobacillus plantarum

Another Lactobacillus strain called L. plantarum may also help combat bacterial overgrowth in people on proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). 

A large 2021 study found that participants who took medications for acid reflux experienced greater improvements in symptoms after taking a probiotic that included L. plantarum and L. rhamnosus, among other strains.

7. Lactobacillus reuteri

L. reuteri supplementation may help cases of acid reflux related to H. pylori infection. H. pylori is a bacteria that can infect the stomach and has been linked with GERD symptoms. 

A 2014 study implemented four weeks of L. reuteri supplements following two weeks of standard antibiotic treatment for H. pylori.

This intervention improved the eradication of H. pylori by 8.6%, and the participants reported fewer digestive symptoms than the placebo group.   

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Tips for Choosing the Best Probiotics for Your Gut

Before starting a probiotic supplement for acid reflux and gut health, talk to your doctor about the best options based on your medical history. 

Choosing the Best Brand

Supplements, including probiotics, aren’t regulated by the FDA in the same way medications are.

Because of this, there can be inconsistencies with the content, quality, and effectiveness of probiotic supplements. 

When shopping for a probiotic supplement, look for a seal on the label indicating third-party quality testing, such as: 

  • USP.
  • ConsumerLab.
  • NSF.

Probiotic-Rich Foods

Though some of the above studies found benefits from probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and fermented milk, these were formulated to include specific probiotic strains and don’t necessarily reflect the products you might find at the grocery store. 

More research is needed on how store-bought fermented dairy products may impact acid reflux.

How Long Does It Take for Probiotics to Help Acid Reflux?

A 2021 study found that probiotic supplements improved acid reflux symptoms after 30 days of treatment.

This was true for people already on medications for acid reflux and those who only took the probiotic.

However, remember that probiotic therapy alone may not treat acid reflux, and it’s best to explore the root cause of the symptoms with your medical team. 

Other Lifestyle Changes to Improve Acid Reflux Symptoms

In addition to medical treatment and possibly probiotic supplementation, specific diet and lifestyle changes have been linked with improvements in acid reflux. 

Lifestyle Changes

The American College of Gastroenterology recommends the following lifestyle changes for people with acid reflux: 

  • Elevate the head of the bed while sleeping.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Avoid eating 2-3 hours before bedtime. 
  • Weight management. 

Wearing loose-fitting clothing and slowing down the pace of eating are other factors that may help reduce symptoms. 

Diet Changes

Additionally, some people find that certain foods may trigger acid reflux.

While these can be highly individual, common triggers include: 

  • Coffee.
  • Chocolate.
  • Spicy foods.
  • Acidic foods.
  • High-fat foods. 

Research shows that people who follow a Mediterranean-style eating pattern have a lower incidence of GERD.

However, some of the evidence on diet and lifestyle changes for GERD is conflicting, which demonstrates the need for more research on the subject. 

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Takeaway

Several probiotic strains have been linked with improvements in acid reflux symptoms, both on their own and as a complement to standard medication treatment.

Research shows that Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains are the most effective for managing acid reflux.

However, many of the studies on this subject have limitations, demonstrating the need for more randomized controlled trials. 

How a Dietitian Can Help

If you’re struggling with acid reflux, talk to your doctor about your options for treatment.

In addition, consider working with a registered dietitian.

Your dietitian can review diet and lifestyle modifications to address your symptoms and recommend probiotic supplements if appropriate. 

Book an insurance-covered visit with a gut health registered dietitian through Nourish to learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions

What probiotics should I take for acid reflux?

The probiotic strain best for treating acid reflux depends on the root cause of your symptoms. 

For example, if delayed gastric emptying is contributing to your acid reflux, the following probiotics may help increase the rate of stomach emptying:

Other probiotic strains are more effective in reducing symptoms in people already taking medications for acid reflux.

These include Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus plantarum.

More research is needed to form clinical guidelines on the use of probiotics in treating acid reflux, making it important to talk with your doctor before starting any supplements.

Can probiotics reverse acid reflux?

Probiotics may treat acid reflux in certain cases, but more research is needed.

An imbalance of healthy and unhealthy bacteria in the digestive tract can increase the risk of acid reflux.

In cases where dysbiosis or bacterial overgrowth are at play, probiotics may be an effective treatment option. 

In other cases, such as when acid reflux is triggered by an H. pylori infection, probiotic supplements may be effective when used in combination with standard medication therapy.

What probiotics are good for IBS and GERD?

Research shows that certain probiotic strains can reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), like regurgitation, abdominal pain, and bloating. 

These include:

Because there can be many possible underlying causes of the above symptoms, talk to your doctor before starting any probiotic supplements to treat digestive concerns.

References

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Nourish has strict sourcing policies and prioritizes primary sources, including medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about our medical review process and editorial guidelines.

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