Soothing GERD with Milk: Fact or Fiction?Published on Tuesday, November 14, 2023 by
Can Milk Really Provide Relief from GERD Symptoms?
Do you ever find yourself experiencing the following symptoms?
- A burning discomfort that begins behind the breastbone and radiates to the neck and throat
- A bitter, sour-tasting fluid that gets regurgitated back up
If so, you may be living with GERD; however, you are not alone. Approximately one-third of the population is believed to be living with GERD. Many people self-diagnose without seeking help from their primary care physician. So, I would be interested to learn the number of people living with GERD, as those who do not seek a diagnosis are not included in the statistics.
As a dietitian, I often spend my time counseling patients on GERD. Many patients take the medication route, but many of my patients are also interested in learning how to help alleviate GERD through home remedies and lifestyle changes.
A few lifestyle factors that one with GERD may have heard of in the past include:
- Try losing if you are overweight
- Avoid trigger foods
- Do not overeat
- Do not lay down after eating
- Exercise if you are able
After a quick Google search, you will find many different home remedies for GERD. Here are just a few:
- Mustard for heartburn relief
- Various herbs
- Drinking baking soda
- Use of apple cider vinegar
- Drinking milk
Please keep in mind that although most home remedies should be harmless, they have no scientific basis and should be discussed with your physician before use.
Drinking Milk for GERD
Is there any truth to this?
A study of three regions of Jordan looked at 214 pregnant women who reported heartburn. After conducting a questionnaire, they found that drinking milk as a home remedy was useful in reducing heartburn, and some women actually used some home remedies as alternatives to medications.
You may find yourself wondering how and why this may work.
An article from Johns Hopkins Medicine states that milk acts as a temporary buffer between the stomach lining and acidic stomach contents and can immediately relieve heartburn symptoms. If this is something you want to try, remember that the full-fat kinds of milk (whole milk) may aggravate acid reflux due to the fat content. Depending on your health status, 1% should be okay to use to ensure you still have some fat to help you absorb the fat-soluble vitamins in milk.
In my attempt to link the missing pieces, I started thinking about Tums. It’s a well-known fact that an active ingredient in Tums is calcium, and calcium is also in milk. Besides milk acting as a buffer between the stomach lining and acidic stomach contents, calcium may also play a role. I decided to do some research, and this is what I found.
One study suggests that calcium is partially responsible for decreasing heartburn by improving the beginning of peristalsis (wave-like muscle contractions that move food through the digestive system) and acid clearance. Additionally, it is proposed that the high amount of calcium in milk helps to absorb extra acid and contributes to its alkalinity, effectively neutralizing stomach acid.
At the end of the day, drinking milk to help reduce heartburn seems like a pretty harmless task; however, if you are using milk or antacids frequently to provide relief, you may want to consult your provider, as frequent heartburn may be a sign of a more serious condition (GERD).
- Locke III, R. (2021, December 2). The prevalence and impact of gastroesophageal reflux disease. About GERD. https://aboutgerd.org/what-is/prevalence/
- Khresheh R. (2011). Strategies used by Jordanian women to alleviate heartburn during pregnancy. Midwifery, 27(5), 603–606. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2010.05.013
- Gupta, E. (2022, March 28). Gerd diet: Foods that help with acid reflux (heartburn). Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/gerd-diet-foods-that-help-with-acid-reflux-heartburn
- Rodriguez-Stanley, S., Ahmed, T., Zubaidi, S., Riley, S., Akbarali, H. I., Mellow, M. H., & Miner, P. B. (2004). Calcium carbonate antacids alter esophageal motility in heartburn sufferers. Digestive diseases and sciences, 49(11-12), 1862–1867. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10620-004-9584-1
- Panda, V., Shinde, P., Deora, J., & Gupta, P. (2017). A comparative study of the antacid effect of some commonly consumed foods for hyperacidity in an artificial stomach model. Complementary therapies in medicine, 34, 111–115. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2017.08.002
Haley McGahaRDN, CSO, LD