Honey and acid reflux
If you’ve experienced a backflow of stomach acid into your esophagus after eating, you may have had acid reflux. Some 20 percent of Americans deal with acid reflux symptoms regularly.
When over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription options falter, some people are turning to natural remedies to relieve symptoms.
Honey has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years to treat a variety of ailments. Some research and anecdotal evidence suggests that honey may soothe the throat and ease acid reflux symptoms.
What are the benefits of honey?
- Honey is rich in antioxidants. Some types may have just as many antioxidants as fruits and vegetables.
- Honey contains a natural hydrogen peroxide. This makes it effective at treating wounds.
- Honey also has a number of antibacterial and antiviral properties.
Honey has been used medicinally throughout the course of history. The exact benefits depend on the type of honey being used. Raw, unpasteurized honey provides the most health benefits, nutrients, and enzymes.
The substance is rich in antioxidants. These can help protect you from cell damage caused by free radicals.
Free radicals can contribute to the aging process. They may also lead to chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. The antioxidants found in honey may help prevent heart disease.
Honey also has a number of antibacterial and antiviral properties. Not only can raw honey kill bacteria and fungus, it contains a natural antiseptic.
Medical-grade makuna honey is considered the most effective honey for treating wounds. This honey may have other antibacterial properties along with its natural hydrogen peroxide.
Honey may also help with digestive issues, such as diarrhea and peptic ulcers.
What the research says
Honey may work in several ways to help acid reflux symptoms. An article published by the Indian Journal of Medical Research points out several key benefits:
- Honey is both antioxidant and free radical scavenging. Reflux may be caused in part by free radicals that damage cells lining the digestive tract. Honey may prevent damage by removing free radicals.
- Honey may work to reduce inflammation in the esophagus.
- Honey’s texture allows it to better coat the mucous membrane of the esophagus. This can contribute to longer-lasting relief.
- Honey is natural and can be used along with other traditional treatments.
Despite these claims, more formal research needs been done to assess its true effectiveness as a treatment for acid reflux.
How to use honey to treat acid reflux
In a clinical review published by the British Medical Journal, researchers suggested that honey’s viscous nature might help keep acids down. One member of their team saw relief from his heartburn symptoms after consuming five milliliters (about one teaspoon) of plain honey.
If you don’t want to take one teaspoon of honey by itself, you can mix it with a glass of warm water or tea. Drinking a glass of milk or eating some yogurt may also give you a similarly soothing effect.
Risks and warnings
Most people can consume honey with having any adverse side effects.
Honey may affect blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes, low blood sugar, or take medications that affect blood sugar, ask your doctor before trying this home remedy. You should also ask your doctor about taking honey if you’re on medications or are pregnant or breast-feeding. Honey shouldn’t be given to infants younger than 12 months of age.
If you have a honey allergy, you shouldn’t try this home remedy. If you notice any unusual side effects, you should discontinue use and seek medical attention.
Other acid reflux treatment options
You can also try over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to treat occasional acid reflux.
- Tums and other antacids can help neutralize stomach acids for quick relief.
- H2 blockers, such as cimetidine (Tagamet) and famotidine (Pepcid), can reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces.
- Proton pump inhibitors, such as omeprazole (Prilosec), also reduce stomach acids. They can also help to heal the esophagus.
If your symptoms persist, your doctor may prescribe stronger versions of these medications. These drugs may be used alone or together, depending on your signs and symptoms.
For the most severe cases, your doctor may suggest an esophageal-strengthening medication, such as baclofen. This drug may reduce how often your sphincter relaxes and allows acid to flow upward. Baclofen has significant side effects, including fatigue and confusion.
In rare instances, surgery to strength the esophageal sphincter may be necessary.
What you can do now
Although research on honey and acid reflux is limited, it’s still considered to be a safe, effective way to treat acid reflux.
If you decide to try honey, remember:
- A typical dose is about one teaspoon per day.
- Honey can affect your blood sugar levels.
- Most people can take honey without experiencing side effects.
OTC or alternative treatments often help with occasional bouts of acid reflux. If your symptoms persist, you should consult your doctor. The sooner you get help for your symptoms, the sooner you’ll be on your path to recovery and avoid further damage to your esophagus.