The burning sensation in your chest, the lump in your throat, the sour liquid climbing up your gullet. If this sounds familiar, you probably suffer from acid reflux.
Acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is the kind of heartburn you may feel after eating a large meal late at night. Certain foods, beverages and medications can also trigger GERD.
But instead of reaching for an over-the-counter pill or other pharmaceutical remedy, people are trying CBD in hopes that it can calm their stomach acid. Fortunately, research seems to be backing up the claims that CBD can help reduce acid reflux.
Acid Reflux Is a Common & Growing Problem
According to the Healthcare and Utilization Project, a government-run database of hospital care information, 60% of the population suffers from acid reflux some time during the year, with 20–30% feeling the burn weekly. It points out:
“When this reflux occurs on a regular basis, GERD may lead to esophagitis (an inflamed lining of the esophagus), narrowing of the esophagus, bleeding or trouble swallowing. More serious complications may emerge, such as the precancerous condition known as Barrett’s esophagus, as well as esophageal adenocarcinoma.”
Apparently, hospitalizations with either a primary or secondary GERD diagnosis increased by 216% from 995,402 in 1998 to 3,141,965 in 2005.
That said, many people can address acid reflux symptoms with over-the-counter medications before they turn to more serious alternatives like prescription drugs and surgery.
Increasingly, though, medical professionals are looking at cannabis in general, and CBD oil in particular as a means of coping with GERD. “[CBD has] been shown to help heal ulcers and decrease acid reflux,” says Dr. Kenneth Brown, M.D., a board-certified gastroenterologist and doctor of internal medicine in Plano, TX, who often recommends CBD oil to his patients.
“When the CBD binds to the CB1 receptor, it decreases excessive gastric acid, helps the lower esophagus prevent reflux, and increases blood flow to the lining of the stomach to help it heal quicker,” he explains.
Traditional Treatments for GERD
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Quitting smoking
- Elevating the head of your bed
- Not lying down right after a meal
- Avoiding trigger foods and drinks, including fatty and fried foods, caffeine and alcohol
- Not wearing tight-fitting clothing
For mild cases of acid reflux, many people turn to nonprescription antacid medications we’ve all seen at the drugstore. But then there are prescription pills people can also take, like:
- Prescription-strength H-2-receptor blockers: These include prescription-strength famotidine (Pepcid), nizatidine and ranitidine (Zantac).
- Prescription-strength proton pump inhibitors: These include esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Prilosec, Zegerid), pantoprazole (Protonix), rabeprazole (Aciphex) and dexlansoprazole (Dexilant).
- Medication to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter: The medication Baclofen may ease GERD by decreasing the frequency of relaxations of the lower esophageal sphincter.
In more extreme cases, patients may elect to have a fundoplication procedure, in which the surgeon “wraps the top of your stomach around the lower esophageal sphincter, to tighten the muscle and prevent reflux.”
Another surgical procedure involves using a LINX device, in which a ring of tiny magnetic beads is wrapped around the junction of the stomach and esophagus, closing it enough to stop acid reflux but still allowing food to get through.
How CBD Can Help With Acid Reflux
While more rigorous research needs to be done, some studies suggest that CBD may have a role to play in dealing with the symptoms of GERD, harnessing the ability of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to fight inflammation and repair mucosal damage.
Apparently, CBD can work with the soft muscle tissue of the gastrointestinal system to calm the peristalsis (involuntary muscle movements) that moves food and waste. It also manages the secretion of hydrochloric acid, reducing the chances of it splashing back into the esophagus. Additionally, CBD reduces inflammation and burning in the lining of the esophagus.
A 2017 study conducted by Swedish scientists at AstraZeneca suggests that medical cannabis, including CBD, may have a role in treating GERD, because “activation of cannabinoid receptors CB1, CB2 produces analgesic [or pain relieving] effects in several experimental pain models, including visceral pain arising from the gastrointestinal tract.”
Since pain is a problem with GERD, CBD’s analgesic’s potential is of interest, examined by, among other studies, a 2009 study that considered inflammatory pain, and the roles of CB1 and CB2 receptors.
Some studies suggest that the body’s inflammatory response may be more responsible for the damage done to the esophagus than stomach acid when it comes to GERD. And since we know that CBD has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, it makes sense that people report an easing of GERD, acid reflux and heartburn symptoms after taking CBD.
With such promising research on the rise, acid reflux sufferers may find welcome relief when ingesting CBD regularly.
Photo credit: Aaron Amat/Shutterstock.com
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