Gastroesophageal reflux disease, more commonly referred to as GERD, is a digestive disorder is characterized by sustained bouts of acid reflux.

If you often experience side effects of acid reflux, such as heartburn, nausea, and chest pain, it’s possible that you’re dealing with GERD.

To reduce the frequency of GERD symptoms, a healthcare professional may recommend lifestyle changes, such as losing weight if you have overweight or obesity, quitting smoking if you use tobacco products, and changing your diet.

A number of over-the-counter and prescription medications can also help improve symptoms. You may have heard that zinc carnosine is one such supplement to help with GERD.

This article takes a closer look at zinc carnosine, what it’s used for, and how effective it is in the treatment of GERD.

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Zinc carnosine, also called zinc-l-carnosine or its generic name, polaprezinc, is a chemical compound made of equal parts zinc and l-carnosine.

Zinc is an essential mineral found in oysters, beef, and seafood. It plays a critical role in bodily processes, including immune health, wound healing, and cell growth and development.

L-carnosine is an amino acid compound found in the brain, muscle, and gastrointestinal tissues of all vertebrae species, including humans. The compound has antioxidant and muscle-building properties, and many athletes take it as a supplement.

The two are not found bound together in nature, but rather, zinc carnosine is a therapeutic compound developed in Japan nearly 30 years ago to treat stomach ulcers.

When zinc and l-carnosine are combined, the resulting compound appears to have a synergistic effect on the gastrointestinal system in particular. (That’s why some may wonder if zinc carnosine can help with GERD.)

Zinc carnosine supports the gastrointestinal system by protecting its mucus membrane, aiding in the repair of damaged epithelial cells, inhibiting inflammation, and exhibiting antioxidant-like properties.

Thus, aside from being used to treat stomach ulcers, zinc carnosine has also been used to treat gastric infections caused by Heliobacter pylori. It’s also being investigated as a cancer therapy.

Zinc carnosine has been studied for treating stomach ulcers, but its effectiveness in treating GERD has not been investigated as closely.

In fact, not much research at all has measured how helpful zinc carnosine is for GERD.

One such study is currently in the works, though the results haven’t been published just yet.

The Italian study, nicknamed GERDILOR, includes 80 adults. It will observe how effective a liquid zinc carnosine supplement (marketed under the trade name Hepilor®) is for treating GERD symptoms and maintaining remission from the condition.

In this study, the participants will first be treated with a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) — a standard medication used for GERD.

Thus, the researchers will be looking at how zinc carnosine helps with GERD when it’s paired with a more traditional course of treatment, not by itself.

The results of the GERDILOR study will certainly be interesting to review, but a single set of positive results still would not be enough to confidently state that zinc carnosine helps with GERD. More human studies with larger sample sizes are needed.

At the same time, this doesn’t mean that zinc carnosine is not helpful for GERD. Many studies have shown that zinc carnosine supports digestive health, which is inherently related to the condition itself.

Though zinc carnosine likely won’t cure GERD, it may be one piece of a more comprehensive treatment plan that improves GERD by supporting a healthy mucosal layer in the gastrointestinal tract and repairing damage to the gastric lining.

A note on choosing high quality supplements

Are you thinking of taking zinc carnosine or a similar supplement to help with your GERD symptoms? If so, have a look at our article on How to Choose High Quality Vitamins and Supplements and remember that not all supplements are created equally.

Look for brands that are third-party tested, pay close attention to any side effects you experience, and always check with a healthcare professional before taking them. They can educate you on safe dosage amounts and possible medication interactions.

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Medications might treat the symptoms of GERD, but if you want to tackle the digestive condition head-on, you may have better luck by addressing its underlying causes.

To make sustainable lifestyle changes that help manage GERD, here are some key areas to focus on.

Weight loss

One of the first steps you can take to improve GERD is lose weight if you have overweight or obesity.

Studies have found that weight loss reduces acid reflux, as well as the symptoms that accompany it, in people with “severe” or “extreme” obesity.

If you want to get started with weight loss while supporting your best physical and mental health, be sure to avoid fad diets. Instead, make incremental changes to your eating patterns and exercise habits that you can enjoy and maintain for life.

Consider our top tips for sustainable weight loss — including a dietitian-approved sample meal plan — here.

Diet and nutrition

Certain foods tend to cause the digestive system to produce more acid reflux than others.

Some acid-producing foods and drinks you may want to avoid when you’re living with GERD include:

  • alcohol
  • coffee
  • caffeinated beverages
  • high-fat foods
  • spicy foods
  • acidic foods (especially citrus and tomatoes)
  • chocolate

Learn more about foods to prioritize and limit when managing symptoms of GERD here.

Sleep patterns

If you often experience GERD symptoms overnight or first thing in the morning, try these steps:

  • Avoid eating late in the evening.
  • Avoid eating within three hours of lying down.
  • Use a pillow or cushion to elevate your head at least six to eight inches off the bed.

Find more sleep hygiene advice from our experts here.

Tobacco and alcohol use

Not only does smoking tobacco products exacerbate GERD symptoms, but smoking itself has even been identified as contributing to the onset of the condition.

In fact, smoking tobacco and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol are some of the greatest risk factors for developing GERD.

To help with GERD, consider limiting or avoiding these substances.

Need help cutting back on smoking or drinking? Check out some resources here and here.

Programs that may be able to help include:

Here are some questions you might have about zinc carnosine and GERD.

Does zinc carnosine reduce stomach acid?

Currently, there is not enough research to assert that zinc carnosine is effective at reducing stomach acid.

Some older research in animals and laboratories suggests that zinc carnosine may lower levels of pepsin — a digestive enzyme that tends to increase stomach acid — so there is a possibility zinc carnosine could indirectly lower stomach acid.

Nevertheless, zinc carnosine supplements are more likely to heal gastrointestinal damage resulting from too much stomach acid rather than reduce the acid itself.

If you want to lower your stomach acid, ask a doctor about an H2 blocker or a proton pump inhibitor (PPI).

Can zinc carnosine heal gastritis?

Gastritis occurs when the lining of the stomach becomes inflamed. There are numerous causes of the condition, including the bacteria Heliobacter pylori.

Multiple studies have cited zinc carnosine as a therapy that targets and helps eradicate Heliobacter pylori.

In addition to zinc carnosine, there are a number of other well-established medications commonly used to treat gastritis caused by Helilobacter pylori. You should consult with a healthcare provider before taking zinc carnosine for gastritis.

How long does zinc carnosine take to work?

At this time, there are no established guidelines for how long it takes zinc carnosine to work.

How long zinc carnosine takes to work will be determined in part by what you’re treating, any other medications you’re taking, and your own personal health factors.

Zinc carnosine is a human-made compound primarily used to treat gastric ulcers.

Though the supplement appears to have benefits for gastrointestinal health overall, more high-quality research studies are still needed in order to understand exactly how zinc carnosine can help with GERD.

If you’re looking for ways to treat GERD, consider working with a healthcare team that includes a physician and a registered dietitian.

These trained providers can suggest a treatment regimen that includes a combination of medications and lifestyle changes that are known to improve GERD.