Can You Use Slippery Elm to Treat Acid Reflux?

Medically reviewed by Deborah Weatherspoon PhD, MSN , CRNA,COI on May 26, 2016Written by Natalie Silver

slippery elm for acid reflux

Slippery elm and acid reflux

Acid reflux can happen when your lower esophageal sphincter doesn’t seal and close off your esophagus from your stomach. This allows the contents in your stomach to come back up your esophageal tract, leading to an inflamed esophagus.

Acid reflux can occur daily, weekly, or less frequently. Those who experience acid reflux often may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This condition can lead to more serious health problems, including damage to your esophagus.

If traditional medications aren’t helping or if you just want to add something more to your treatment regimen, slippery elm may be a good option. People believe this naturally derived supplement coats the esophagus and stomach to relieve discomfort caused by acid reflux.

What are the benefits of slippery elm?

Pros

  1. The gel can coat and soothe inflamed tissue.
  2. This coating can act as a barrier against acidity.
  3. Slippery elm can also stimulate the intestines to produce mucus.

The slippery elm, or red elm, tree is native to North America. People use the inner bark for medicinal purposes. It contains a substance called “mucilage.” When you mix it with water, mucilage becomes a gel.

This gel can coat different parts of the body and may provide relief from some conditions. For example, this gel can help coat and soothe inflamed tissues in the gastrointestinal tract. This may be beneficial for people with acid reflux.

It can also help stimulate more mucus production in the intestines. This can help protect against ulcers and extra acidity.

People have used slippery elm for hundreds of years as a natural medicine. Native Americans used it for:

  • swollen, infected glands
  • sore eyes
  • body sores
  • sore throats
  • skin ailments
  • stomach issues, such as constipation and diarrhea

A 2010 study confirmed that slippery elm, as part of an herbal supplement, improves constipation-dominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-C). More research is necessary to determine whether slippery elm has the same effect when you use it alone.

Overall, research on slippery elm is limited.

How to use slippery elm to treat acid reflux

Slippery elm is available in various forms, such as capsules, powder, and lozenges.

If you’re taking powdered bark, a typical dosage is about one tablespoon up to three times per day. You can mix it with tea or water.

Adding too much slippery elm to the water may cause it to become too thick to ingest. You can add sugar and honey to the drink to make it more palatable.

If you prefer capsules, it’s common to take 400-to 500-milligram capsules up to three times per day. It’s generally safe to take daily capsules for up to eight weeks.

Be sure to read the directions on any slippery elm product that you wish to use. If you’re ever unsure of how much slippery elm to take, speak with your doctor. They can help you determine the correct dosage.

Risks and warnings

Most people can take slippery elm without having any side effects. Because slippery elm coats the digestive tract, it may slow absorption of certain nutrients or medications. You shouldn’t take any other supplements or medications within two hours of taking slippery elm.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate supplements. This means that the contents of each brand of slippery elm may vary. Be sure to read the label of any product you purchase closely.

If you have any side effects or discomfort after taking slippery elm, you should stop using it and call your doctor.

Other acid reflux treatment options

A typical treatment regimen may include lifestyle changes, traditional medications, and alternative therapies. Your first line of treatment may involve avoiding triggering foods, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting an adequate amount of exercise.

Some acid reflux medications, such as antacids, are available over the counter. You shouldn’t take antacids for more than two weeks. If your symptoms persist, speak with your doctor.

Certain medications can treat your acid reflux over an extended period. This includes H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors. These are available over the counter or by prescription only depending on the strength of the medication.

If you have a severe case, surgery to strengthen the esophageal sphincter may be necessary.

What you can do now

Although research on slippery elm is limited, it’s possible to take the bark without having any side effects. If you decide to try this natural remedy, read the product labels thoroughly and watch for unusual ingredients. The dosage varies depending on the form of slippery elm. It may interfere with other medications. You should let your doctor know that you’re using slippery elm to treat your acid reflux. They can ensure that the bark won’t interfere with any other medications that you may be taking.

Keep reading: Home remedies for acid reflux/GERD »

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