Many patients will take medication for reflux, such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), for long periods of time without understanding the risks. Official advice recommends taking PPIs for no more than three 14-day treatment courses in one 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.

Fenugreek and reflux

Fenugreek is an aromatic leafy plant native to Mediterranean, Europe and Asia that produces long pods containing oblong seeds.

The green leaves can be used fresh or dried and the golden seeds are also edible.

People also call Fenugreek leaves Methi leaves or Methi ke Patte in Hindi.

How is it consumed?

Fenugreek is commonly used as a flavouring in curries as well as a food supplement.

For example, seed capsules contain dried, ground, natural fenugreek seeds which can be swallowed or taken as a tea by adding hot water.

Why is it used?

Fenugreek seeds host various bioactive compounds, such as galactomannan, which is a significant soluble fibre.

Some people believe that fenugreek slows sugar absorption in the stomach and stimulates insulin, which may help individuals with diabetes. It is also associated with helping with high cholesterol and losing weight.

Some studies suggest that galactomannan may hold promise for managing upper GI symptoms or conditions.

Galactomannan’s proposed mechanism for alleviating heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) involves forming a soluble fiber raft that acts as a barrier to prevent acid from rising into the oesophagus.

Is it safe?

Fenugreek is believed to be safe in the amounts commonly found in foods, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) in the US.

It states: “Its safety in larger doses is uncertain. It should not be used by children as a supplement. Potential side effects of fenugreek include diarrhoea, nausea, and other digestive tract symptoms and rarely, dizziness and headaches.

Large doses may cause a harmful drop in blood sugar. Fenugreek can cause allergic reactions in some people. Cases of liver toxicity have been reported in people taking fenugreek alone or in combination with other herbs.”

Does it work?

In a 2011 pilot study of subjects with frequent heartburn, a two-week intake of a fenugreek fibre product, taken 30 minutes before two meals a day, ‘diminished heartburn severity’. This conclusion was based on symptom diary results and reduced the use of a mild antacid as a rescue medicine.

Researchers in a 2021 study evaluated the efficacy and safety of a galactomannan-based liquid formulation – branded ‘RefluG’ in reducing typical GERD symptoms in patients not taking PPIs.

The study suggested that RefluxG was ‘statistically superior to placebo’ as 100 per cent of subjects experienced at least 30 per cent symptoms reduction at the end of the study while none achieved a 30 per cent reduction in the placebo group.

However, it is worth noting that RefluxG contains two antacids (calcium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate) which could be as important as the presence of the fenugreek compound in reducing symptoms.

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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