Do Probiotics Help Heartburn? Find Out For Sure

You’ve heard that probiotics are good for so many medical conditions. So, do probiotics help heartburn, acid reflux and GERD? And if so, should I take supplements or is probiotic food better? And which probiotic food is best for me? We give you practical advice based on science and medical advice.

Do probiotics help heartburn and GERD?

do probiotics help heartburn

Most studies show that probiotics can have a positive effect on your heartburn and GERD symptoms. The problem is that the studies often look at slightly different things. So there’s not enough good quality research, or replication of research, to conclusively prove from a scientific standpoint that probiotics help heartburn.

However, let’s go back to the first sentence of the paragraph above…most studies show a positive effect on GERD symptoms. So, that tells me that if you suffer from acid reflux, heartburn or GERD, its well worth trying probiotics to see if they can help you.

In addition, there are lots of anecdotal cases to suggest probiotics does help heartburn and GERD, including quite severe cases, here is just one.

Conversely, you may be put off by other reports where people say probiotics didn’t work for them. You should consider that there may be other factors at play, such as:

  • Were enough probiotics consumed every day to have an effect on gut health?
  • The overall diet of the person.
  • Other underlying medical conditions.
  • Stress
  • If supplements were taken, were they good quality?

Also, if you’re not used to taking probiotics, you may have an increase in gas, bloating, constipation or thirst to start with, but this should subside within a week or two. Therefore, introduce probiotics slowly to your diet to minimize potential side effects.

Overall, there is enough evidence to suggest that probiotics probably help reduce GERD symptoms. Trying probiotics as a remedy for heartburn is easy and inexpensive, particularly if you’re not going to rely on supplements.

do probiotics help heartburn - yogurt smoothie

What are probiotics?

Basically probiotics replenish your gut flora. What’s gut flora? It’s a mixture of good bacteria (85%) and bad bacteria (15%) that make it possible for your body to properly break down the food you eat. And this ensures maximum nutrition is extracted from food in a way your body can absorb it.

Since this bacteria has a close relationship with your body’s absorption of nutrients, it also plays a big role in protecting your body against a huge number of illnesses.

What happens when the gut flora isn’t adequate?

Photo Credit: ninacoco via Compfightcc
Photo Credit: ninacoco via Compfightcc

Well, first for some facts… On an average, there are said to be about a 100 trillion bacteria living in your gut. That’s roughly 10 times as many cells as you have in your body.

When the majority of these bacteria are the good kind, your digestive system runs smoothly. And they also break down your food and provide it in such a form that your intestinal lining can easily absorb the nutrients and transport them throughout your body.

But when your intestinal flora is less than adequate, digestion is hindered. And in turn, you can suffer from gut problems, food allergies, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and even depression to name a few.

Therefore, in order for your digestive system to work properly, you should consume probiotics regularly.

How much probiotics should I consume each day?

It is recommended that you consume 5 billion to 10 billion colony forming units per day. If you eat yogurt or kefir labeled “live and active cultures”, then you’ll be consuming the recommended amount. It can be as simple as that!

Photo Credit: mokapest via Compfightcc
Photo Credit: mokapest via Compfightcc

Some of the food you eat – the sugar, the carbs and other unhealthy food choices – aren’t good for your gut flora and so they die out when exposed to these foods. Unhealthy foods actually encourage the bad bacteria to grow, and to control their numbers you need to ensure you supply the good kind as well via probiotics.

How to first start eating probiotics

If your body isn’t used to probiotics, start very slowly. Try having a small amount, say a spoonful of probiotic yogurt one day, and see how you go. If that goes well, try a bit more the next day and so on.

If you have too much too soon, your body may have an increase in gas, bloating, constipation or thirst to start with, but this should subside within a week or two.

Probiotic supplements vs food

In research studies, both foods and probiotic supplements have been able to demonstrate health benefits. However it is not known for sure whether probiotic, taken in the form of supplements or food is better.

Therefore, in our opinion, common sense tells us to try to get probiotics from food first. Here’s our reasoning:

  • Food will give your body other nutrition, and not solely probiotics.
  • Good food will fill you up.
  • Quality probiotic supplements can be expensive.

If probiotic foods don’t appeal to you (try before dismissing them!), or if you prefer supplements, by all means give them a go. But, be sure to do your research and make sure you get supplements that have good bioavailability – that means the probiotics have been proven to be absorbed by your body. There are anecdotal reports that some people find their reflux gets worse with probiotic supplements.

Foods that contain probiotics

Probiotics are found in foods that contain live cultures.

do probiotics help heartburn - yogurt


The easiest way for you to consume probiotics is to eat natural yogurt, or add it to smoothies, cereal or oatmeal. One cup of yogurt that contains “active and live cultures” will give you all the probiotics you need each day.

All yogurts contain beneficial bacteria as it’s the bacteria that makes yogurt what it is. But some yogurts are heat treated which can kill off the good bacteria.

What you’re looking for is the ‘live and active cultures’ seal on a yogurt tub as it means there are significant amounts of live cultures present in the yogurt. In particular, you want to find yogurt that has lactobacillus acidophilus in it as it helps digestive health.

Here’s a good review about common brands of yogurt that contain probiotics.

Home made sauerkraut

Store bought is typically pasteurized and does not have any live bacteria, and therefore no probiotics. Home made sauerkraut allows for fermentation so that the good bacteria can grow in it. Here’s a simple recipe for sauerkraut that you can try:

Home made ginger ale

Photo Credit: reb via Compfightcc
Photo Credit: reb via Compfightcc

Ginger is naturally good for your digestion. And when you make it into ale, you allow good bacteria to ferment it and thrive. Here’s a good recipe for home made ginger ale. Store bought ginger ale has no probiotics.

Water kefir

Water kefir is another drink that has lot of probiotics. The process of making water kefir is easy, but involves quite a few steps. Here you add the good yeast to a sugar-water solution. The good yeast actually thrives by consuming the sugar. They create fizz in the drink and also help your digestive system.


Kvass is another option. This is fermented juice, made from beets. In addition to containing probiotics, it also incorporates the beneficial substances that are there in beets.

Do probiotics help heartburn?

Probably…if you consume enough every day (one cup of yogurt is enough). And if you’re not used to probiotics, start with a small amount, working up to one cup. The only way to know if probiotics will help your heartburn is to try. And do so in conjunction with other ways to naturally reduce heartburn. Then all you need to do is wait and see the effect on your heartburn for yourself.

Other ways to reduce heartburn naturally

You should not rely solely on probiotics to cure acid reflux. It should be just one part of your broader strategy. Often the key to improving GERD or heartburn is to improve your overall health, and probiotics, in conjunction with the factors listed below: