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5 Supplements That Heal Tissue Damage Caused By Acid Reflux

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When it comes to treating acid reflux with supplements and other natural remedies, there are four key steps I have used successfully with my patients:

  1. Sooth, heal and protect irritated tissue
  2. Stimulate the digestive process
  3. Fight pylori infections
  4. Support overall digestive function

While it would take quite some time to dive into details for each step, mastering step 1 is by far the most important. Here are a few supplements and herbs that can help with step #1! (And if you’re interested in learning more about the rest other three steps, be sure to check out the details of my digital book The Drug-Free Acid Reflux Solution.)

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Step 1: Sooth and Heal Irritated Tissue

This is always the first step because it helps to reduce symptoms quickly and sets the stage for the other therapies to become effective. Think of acid reflux and GERD as a scrape on the inside of your esophagus or stomach. The skin is irritated and inflamed, and as a result the nerves are raw and firing their pain signals at the smallest triggers. We need to treat it just like a scrape on our skin by applying agents that promote healing of the tissue and reduce inflammation.

1. Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL): A Natural Soother

Of all the agents from the natural pharmacy for acid reflux, licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is very likely the most important. It has been well studied in humans and has been shown to have various mechanisms that support the health of the esophagus, stomach and small intestines. It has strong healing properties, and for many people with mild or only intermittent symptoms, it may be all they need.

When taken internally, licorice exerts numerous effects on the body beyond the gastrointestinal system. It has been used in Japan for more than 60 years to treat hepatitis C and has strong antiviral properties as well as properties that protect the liver. It’s also a popular herb used to support the adrenal glands because of its action on the adrenal hormone, cortisol, which as you may remember from Chapter 3, is the hormone released when you’re under stress.

DGL Is Better Than Regular Old Licorice…Here’s Why:

Although licorice is generally considered to be a very safe herb to take internally, there’s a common side effect that can be problematic for many people if they choose the wrong form. One of the active compounds in licorice can elevate blood pressure, so it’s not suggested for people with high blood pressure. Unfortunately, many people who may benefit from the gut healing properties of licorice also have high blood pressure.

Thankfully, there is a solution. There is a special preparation of licorice that has had the blood pressure elevating compound, glycyrrhizin, removed. It’s called deglycyrrhizinated licorice or DGL for short. DGL retains all of the beneficial healing properties for the esophagus and stomach and DOES NOT raise blood pressure!

The main benefits of DGL are related to its ability to restore the integrity of the esophagus, stomach and intestinal lining. It does this by increasing the secretion of the protective mucus that lines our upper and lower GI tract. Remember that mucus is a key component of the stomach’s defense against the erosive properties of acid, and by increasing mucus production, we strengthen our body’s natural protective barrier without suppressing acid production.

How to Take DGL:

In order for DGL to most effectively stimulate the protective mucus secretions, it is best if it comes in direct contact with the tissue.  For this reason, the ideal way to take DGL is as a powder mixed with liquid, or as a chewable tablet. The right type of capsules can also be effective. I prefer powders because higher doses can be taken at each dosing interval, but chewables and capsules offer a more portable, convenient option.

When it comes to DGL, potency and purity of the product are of the utmost importance. Your results will vary based on the quality of the DGL extract, the dosage and the strength of the extract. There are many DGL supplements on the market, but if you want to be successful you must find the right one and use it at the right dose. I recommend finding a DGL powder that contains a 10:1 extract concentration. The recommended dose is 400-500 mg of a 10:1 extract taken 30 minutes before each meal (3x daily) for the first 7 days. After the first 7 days, reduce the dosing frequency to 400-500 mg 30 minutes before 2 meals per day.

Have You Ever Tried Polysaccharide-Rich Herbal Protectors?

There’s a class of herbs that produce copious amounts of compounds called polysaccharides. These compounds are very similar in nature to the makeup of the mucus in your stomach that protects it from stomach acid. So when taken for acid reflux, polysaccharides can augment your body’s own mucus production and enhance protection from stomach acid. Here are the other 4 supplements I suggest you look into to heal and sooth the damage caused by acid reflux.

2. Aloe Vera

Most people are familiar with the healing properties of aloe vera. If you split open a fresh aloe leaf you see the thick, mucus-like gel contained inside. You may have applied this gel to irritated or damaged skin as a soothing and healing agent. Dermatologists even recommend it for sunburn, as a way to heal damaged skin cells. Well, aloe can also heal the cells in our esophagus and digestive tract.

However, like licorice, the aloe plant has some properties that can come with some unwanted side effects. There is a portion of the aloe leaf referred to as the latex, which acts as a powerful laxative, which is a property we want to avoid when treating acid reflux.

How to Take Aloe Vera:

Fresh aloe juice and extracts made from the fresh juice contain only the soothing healing properties without any laxative effects. These are safe to use as part of your acid reflux recovery plan, and you can rest assured that you will be spared the laxative properties. I recommend drinking 4-8 ounces a day to soothe reflux symptoms or finding a comprehensive reflux product that contains aloe vera aqueous extract from the leaf gel.

3. Slippery Elm

Slippery Elm (Ulmas fulva) is an herb famous for its soothing properties. As the name implies, extracts of slippery elm are often slippery due to the high content of plant polysaccharides. Just as in the case of the aloe, these polysaccharides can help to heal irritated internal tissue along the gastrointestinal tract. It does come in capsule form, but for some people, the best results are obtained when it is taken as a tea, powder or lozenges to ensure contact with the cells of the esophagus.

How to Take Slippery Elm:

Slippery elm is easy to use at home and inexpensive. One teaspoon of organic slippery elm bark powder can be added to hot water and consumed as a soothing tea for the esophagus and stomach. Drink 1-2 cups of slippery elm tea daily.

4. Marshmallow Root

Yes, before it was used to make fluffy white sugary treats to be melted over a campfire, marshmallow root was used for its medicinal properties. Like aloe, marshmallow root contains an abundance of polysaccharides that can be extracted and used to sooth, heal and moisturize the tissues of our body. Marshmallow root can support the entire digestive system by providing powerful soothing relief to the tissues of the esophagus, stomach and intestines.

How to Take Marshmallow Root:

Most people take marshmallow root as a capsule or as an ingredient in a formula designed to support a particular area of the body. If there is irritation in the stomach or intestines, the capsules will be helpful, but if the irritation is in the esophagus, as is typically the case with acid reflux, an infusion, powder mixed with liquid or a liquid extract will provide maximum benefit. Drink one or two 4-6 ounce cups per day.

Here are two simple recipes to try at home. (I often recommend Mountain Rose Herbs to my patients as a good resource for the organic dried herbs.)

5. Get Quick Relief with Zinc Carnosine

For individuals really suffering with acid reflux or looking to resolve symptoms as quickly as possible, I recommend including zinc carnosine as part of your initial protocol. If your symptoms are mild, or if you are just not up for taking several different supplements, you can choose to include zinc carnosine only if the other recommendations are not working. It can also be a useful additional tool if symptoms start to increase as you wean off of your prescription acid reflux medications.

Zinc carnosine is a unique preparation where a zinc molecule has been attached to a carnosine molecule forming a mineral chelate. Both zinc and carnosine are known to have healing properties in the gut, but when combined together as a cheleate, the results are truly impressive. Its stomach healing properties are among the most powerful from the natural pharmacy.

Like DGL, its stomach healing properties have been validated through human clinical trials, and zinc carnosine is used as a prescription medication in Japan for the treatment of stomach ulcers! I have also seen impressive results in my many patients who have been helped by zinc carnosine.

Its healing properties are multiple which is why it is such an effective tool. Research has shown one way that zinc carnosine helps to heal the stomach is by accelerating the healing process through increased production of an important hormone called insulin growth factor 1 (IGF-1).[1] In addition, it has been shown to inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory compounds associated with injury in the stomach cells.[2] As we know, chronic inflammation can be detrimental to healing, so getting inflammation under control is an important part of the healing process.

Aside from reducing inflammation, it also promotes healing and absorbs toxins produced by H. pylori bacteria.[3] [4] [5]

How to Take Zinc Carnosine:

Like the other products, the dose of zinc carnosine is pretty specific. I recommend that you take a 75 mg capsule or chewable tablet twice daily after meals on a full stomach. If zinc is taken on an empty stomach it can cause nausea, so make sure to take it with food.

Relieve Your Pain and Get Results That Last

For more information on how you can naturally heal your acid reflux and ditch the dangerous medications, check out my digital book The Drug-Free Acid Reflux Solution, which offers additional ways to sooth irritated tissue and a tried and true dietary plan that can heal your reflux symptoms for good.

Scientific References: 

[1] Kato S, Tanaka A, Ogawa Y, et al. Effect of polaprezinc on impaired healing of chronic gastric ulcers in adjuvant-induced arthritic rats—role of insulin-like growth factors (IGF)-1. Med Sci Monit. 2001 Jan;7(1):20-5

[2] Handa O, Yoshida N, Tanaka Y, et al. Inhibitory effect of polaprezinc on the inflammatory response to Helicobacter pylori. Can J Gastroenterol. 2002 Nov;16(11):785-9.

[3] IIshihara R, et al.  Polaprezinc attenuates Helicobacter pylori-associated gastritis in Mongolian gerbils. Helicobacter. 2002 Dec;7(6):384-9.

[4] Kato S, Tanaka A, Ogawa Y, et al. Effect of polaprezinc on impaired healing of chronic gastric ulcers in adjuvant-induced arthritic rats—role of insulin-like growth factors (IGF)-1. Med Sci Monit. 2001 Jan;7(1):20-5.

[5] Handa O, Yoshida N, Tanaka Y, et al. Inhibitory effect of polaprezinc on the inflammatory response to Helicobacter pylori. Can J Gastroenterol. 2002 Nov;16(11):785-9.


Dr. Passero completed four years of post-graduate medical education at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon after receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Biology from the University of Colorado. Dr. Passero has trained with some of the nation’s leading doctors in the field of natural medicine. In his practice, Dr. Passero focuses on restoring harmony to both the body and mind using advanced protocols that incorporate herbal therapy, homeopathy, vitamin therapy and nutritional programs. Through education and guidance patients are able to unlock the natural healing power contained within each one of us. For more information, visit his website, Green Healing Wellness, or follow him on Facebook.


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2 responses to “5 Supplements That Heal Tissue Damage Caused By Acid Reflux”

  1. Pat says:

    Praise God I don’t have GERD! That said, if I did, I’d be in trouble if licorice is the best remedy. I am allergic to licorice. It causes severe formication. Formication is the sensation of ants crawling over your skin. It makes a person feel really on edge. And I absolutely can’t STAND the taste of it. It makes me feel sick just thinking about the taste! For awhile, I had to ask my husband not to eat it because I couldn’t stand the smell, either. I wonder if other people have these problems.

  2. teresita says:

    What about the apple cider vinegar with pure honey, can it heal/remove acid reflux?