Many patients swear by natural remedies as an alternative to medications to relieve their reflux symptoms, such as heartburn, chronic cough and indigestion.

In our latest blog, we take a look at the use of Slippery Elm and Kefir.

Slippery Elm

Slippery Elm is a tree with coarsely textured leaves and a rough outer bark and has been used as an herbal remedy in North America for hundreds of years.

Mucilage, a substance that becomes a gel when mixed with water, is taken from the inner bark of the Slippery Elm tree and made available as a powder or capsules.

Why is it used?

Historically, Native Americans used Slippery Elm to heal wounds, boils, ulcers, burns and skin inflammation. It is also associated with helping with stomach problems.

It is claimed that Slippery Elm can help coat and soothe the lining of the oesophagus and stomach in cases of mild reflux. The mucilage is also said by some to act as a barrier against the damaging effect of acid on the oesophagus.

It has also been reported that Slippery Elm can also stimulate the intestines to produce mucus.

Is it safe?

No side effects have been reported with Slippery Elm, although researchers warn that because slippery elm ‘coats’ the digestive tract, it may slow down the absorption of other drugs, herbs or supplements.

Does it work?

There has been little scientific research on Slippery Elm. In 2010, a study of a formula containing a mix of dried powdered Slippery Elm bark, lactulose, oat bran, and liquorice root found that it significantly improved both bowel habit and symptoms in patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome but there is no specific research into the effects on reflux or esophagitis.

Research into Slippery Elm, its biochemistry and use as a complementary and alternative treatment for laryngeal irritation appeared in the Journal of Investigational Biochemistry in 2012.

It concluded that there is  evidence  which  supports  anti-inflammatory effects of elm bark in the lower digestive tract but said further research is needed  to  investigate  the  validity  of  slippery elm’s use in managing upper airway inflammatory conditions.

Kefir

Kefir is a fermented milk drink made from live bacteria cultures which is credited with having health benefits. The yoghurt-like drink is made by adding kefir grain to milk from a cow, sheep or goat, then letting the mixture ferment for about 24 hours. Kefir grains cluster together resembling a small cauliflower.

Why is it used?

Because Kefir contains actively growing bacteria and yeast, mixed with milk it produces enzymes and chemicals that affect the way food is digested.

So-called probiotic-rich foods are often recommended for those with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, with some people swearing by drinking kefir before bedtime to prevent night time reflux.

One idea is that probiotics, such as Kefir, help restore a healthy balance of ‘friendly’ bacteria in the stomach and prevent the overgrowth of the ‘harmful’ bacteria that results in increased gas, which can lead to the contents of the stomach being refluxed back into the oesophagus.

Is it safe?

Kefir has been linked with intestinal cramping and constipation, especially after first time consumption. Because it contains live bacteria and yeast, it is not recommended for people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients who are receiving chemotherapy.

Does it work?

There are no studies into Kefir and reflux disease.

In a 2012 study into the anti-inflammatory effect of Kefir in experimental corrosive esophagitis (inflammation of the oesophagus), found that Kefir “has anti-inflammatory effect especially in early phase of caustic injury” and “it also has some beneficial effect in wound healing”.

Conclusion: Without thorough scientific investigation, it is difficult to claim natural remedies really work and, of course, what works for one person may not always work for another.  Limited research suggests they may not always help.

Many people think that ‘they are safe because they are natural’ but always research ingredients carefully.

It is important to see your doctor for a full discussion about supplements and medication, especially if you develop new or worsening symptoms.  Relying on a response to a medication is potentially dangerous.

Peptest is a simple saliva test that determines whether or not  you are refluxing.

COMING SOON Part 3 Aloe Vera and Manuka Honey