Can berberine help with acid reflux symptoms, such as heartburn and indigestion?

Many patients take reflux medication, such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), for extended periods without comprehending the risks. However, official advice recommends not taking PPIs for more than three 14-day treatment courses within a year.

In our blog series on natural remedies, we look at alternatives people often use for relief from their reflux symptoms, such as heartburn and indigestion. We investigate whether there is any scientific evidence supporting the claims.

This section will explore the association between berberine and the relief of symptoms associated with gastro-oesophageal reflux (GERD/GORD), as well as what berberine is.

What is berberine?

Berberine is an alkaloid compound that occurs naturally in several plants, such as goldenseal, tree turmeric, amur corktree, Oregon grape, and barberry. The roots and barks of these plants contain berberine, a bright yellow alkaloid compound.

Why do people consume berberine?

Berberine has been referenced in Chinese literature as a health treatment for infections, cardiovascular disease, cholesterol as well as diabetes. Plants have also been traditionally used in different parts of the world for the treatment of digestive and respiratory diseases, and good gut health.

How is it available?

It is available as a supplement, tablets and capsules.

How could berberine help with reflux?

In 2022, a study investigated the beneficial effect of the alkaloid on gastroesophageal reflux-induced airway hyperresponsiveness (GERAHR) – an apparent cause of chronic cough in GERD patients – and explore the underlying mechanisms. Researchers found that it suppressed the upregulation of GERAHR in guinea pigs.

Back in 2013, a study using rats delved into whether berberine could help prevent the inflammation of the lower oesophagus due to the regurgitation of gastric acid. Researchers found that berberine led to significantly inhibited gastric acid-induced oesophageal damage.

Meanwhile in 2014, a study suggested that berberine and its derivatives has significant biological effects on gastrointestinal and other functions and may become therapeutics for the treatment of diarrhoea, gastroenteritis, diabetes and inflammatory conditions.

Is it safe?

A 2019 clinical review suggests it has very low toxicity in usual doses and reveals clinical benefits without major side effects.

However, other research suggests the amount and method of consuming it can lead to various effects from stomach upsets to low pressure and liver issues.

It has also been reported that the toxicity of pure berberine is greater than the toxicity of plant extract.

Disclaimer: This is an informational blog and does not constitute diet or lifestyle advice. We always recommend you do your own research on top to ensure it’s right for your specific circumstances. You can always get in touch if you have any questions. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. You should always consult your doctor prior to undertaking any treatment for reflux. 

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