Heartburn, reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD/GORD) is common. Lately I have been seeing a connection between my patients with poor gut health, particularly constipation, and reflux and heartburn. Today we will be exploring a study that found psyllium seed to be a great reflux and heartburn remedy in people with constipation.
Reflux is a common condition characterized by the reflux of stomach acid back into the oesophagus causing symptoms including heartburn, ulceration, dental erosion, altered sleep, and even lung related complications such as asthma and pneumonia. One serious outcome from ongoing reflux is possible development of esophageal cancer. Thankfully only 10% of GERD sufferers go on to develop Barret’s Oesophagus which is the precursor to cancer (1).
As mentioned above gastroesophageal reflux disease is common. In North America it ranges from approximately 18-27% of the population and has risk factors including older age, obesity, smoking and a sedentary lifestyle (2).
Working in the Byron Herbalist clinic I have been finding it interesting to see an overlap between reflux and heartburn sufferers and IBS or methane SIBO patients. I wasn’t surprised to see this being explored in the literature with one review finding the mean incidence of both heartburn or GERD and IBS to be 36% (ranging from 8-71% depending on the study) (3).
What is more interesting to me is the connection between constipation, often with symptoms of SIBO such as bloating, excessive gas production and reflux. I see this frequently in my practice.
In the scientific literature we can see that GERD is associated with constipation in about 29% of cases (4).
This is why it is so important to address both things simultaneously.
Psyllium Seeds for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
The study we are looking at today compared omeprazole, a common proton pump inhibitor medication, and psyllium seeds for two months in patients with constipation and gastroesophageal reflux disease.
The goal of the psyllium seeds was to promote healthy bowel movements daily while the goal of omeprazole was to lower stomach acid to prevent damage to the oesophagus when the patient experienced reflux.
They found that from the 65 patients in the psyllium seed group 58 patients (that’s 89.2%) responded to the treatment. While in the omeprazole group 94% responded (not a statistically different).
Here is where it gets really interesting.
Of the patients that had good success with the pharmaceutical acid blocking medication 69.8% experienced a recurrence in their symptoms and the average day of recurrence was only 16 days. In the psyllium seed group only 24.2% of patients experienced a recurrence of their symptoms and the average day of recurrence was 69 days!
Using Psyllium Seed for GERD and Constipation
First it is important to take into account the people included in the study. Constipation was the key symptom here and when combined with a diagnosis of GERD, psyllium seeds appear to be very effective at treating the root cause for almost 90% of the patients.
Next week we will be exploring the use of psyllium seeds in maintaining remission in ulcerative colitis patients so stay tuned and remember, if you are seeking support with your digestive health issues, consider working with me at Byron Herbalist. I consult with patients Australia wide via video conferencing and ship out custom herbal formulas specific for your needs weekly.
References and Resources
- Evidence-based recommendations for GERD treatment
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
- Overlap of functional heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease with irritable bowel syndrome
- Comparing the Effect of Psyllium Seed on Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease With Oral Omeprazole in Patients With Functional Constipation