Can Turmeric Make Acid Reflux Worse?


Acid reflux is an uncomfortable condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It occurs when stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus, causing symptoms like heartburn, regurgitation, and difficulty swallowing. With the rising popularity of natural remedies like turmeric, many acid reflux sufferers wonder if it can provide relief or potentially make their symptoms worse.

Turmeric is a bright yellow spice derived from the turmeric plant. It contains a compound called curcumin that has impressive anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Turmeric has traditionally been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to treat a variety of ailments. More recently, western medicine has begun studying turmeric for its potential health benefits.

Can Turmeric Make Acid Reflux Worse

But can turmeric make acid reflux worse? Let's take a detailed look at the evidence.

How Turmeric Might Help Acid Reflux

Turmeric has several characteristics that could theoretically help alleviate acid reflux symptoms:

  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects: The curcumin in turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory compound. It can help reduce inflammation along the esophageal lining that gets irritated from stomach acid.
  • Antioxidant Protection: Turmeric is rich in antioxidants that can help neutralize stomach acid and prevent damage to esophageal tissue.
  • Improved Digestion: Some research indicates turmeric can boost bile production in the gallbladder, potentially improving digestion and reducing acid reflux events.
  • Lower Stomach Acid Production: Turmeric may inhibit gastric acid secretion in the stomach, reducing the amount of acid available to reflux.
  • Soothing Properties: Turmeric has traditionally been used to soothe gastrointestinal ailments. Compounds in turmeric may coat and protect the esophageal lining.

At first glance, these properties make turmeric seem like a potentially helpful natural remedy for managing acid reflux symptoms. But can it truly help or possibly make symptoms worse?

Does Turmeric Have Any Side Effects That Could Aggravate Reflux?

While turmeric has many promising therapeutic properties, there are a few potential side effects to consider:

Can Cause Nausea and Stomach Upset

Turmeric stimulates bile production and contraction of the gallbladder. In high doses, this can lead to nausea, diarrhea, bloating, and general gastric distress in some individuals. These side effects could theoretically trigger acid reflux symptoms in susceptible people.

May Loosen Lower Esophageal Sphincter

The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is the muscular valve that closes off the esophagus from the stomach. If the LES relaxes inappropriately, it can allow stomach contents and acid to reflux upwards. Very limited research shows turmeric may help relax the LES, which could promote acid reflux. However, most studies show no significant impact on LES pressure.

Can Stimulate Stomach Acid Production

While turmeric may inhibit gastric acid production in some cases, other research shows it may actually increase stomach acid secretion. By stimulating more acidic gastric juice production, turmeric could hypothetically worsen reflux.

Has Blood Thinning Effects

Turmeric can make blood thinner and slower to clot. This could potentially increase risk of bleeding and ulcer complications from acid erosion if reflux is severe. However, this effect requires high doses of turmeric for prolonged periods.

Can Trigger Allergic Reactions

Rarely, some individuals may be allergic to turmeric and experience adverse reactions like facial flushing, rash, or anaphylaxis. Allergic reactions could aggravate acid reflux symptoms.

So while turmeric's side effects are usually mild, it’s possible they could exacerbate acid reflux in sensitive individuals. Let’s look at what scientific research reveals about turmeric’s impact on acid reflux.

What Does The Research Say About Turmeric and Acid Reflux?

There haven't been many rigorous clinical trials specifically analyzing turmeric's effects on acid reflux symptoms. However, the limited studies available provide some helpful insights:

Small Human Trial

A small study in 2011 had 12 patients with endoscopy-confirmed acid reflux take either turmeric extracts or a placebo pill twice daily for 5 days. The turmeric group had significantly reduced acid reflux symptoms and improved endoscopy grades compared to placebo. This suggests turmeric may protect against acid damage.

However, this study was too small and short to provide conclusive evidence on turmeric's efficacy.

Analyzing Curcumin

A 2019 review looked at the effects of curcumin, turmeric's active ingredient, on acid reflux. Test tube studies showed curcumin can inhibit pepsin activity and help protect cells from acid damage. Animal studies also showed some protective effects against reflux damage.

While promising, human trials are still needed to confirm curcumin supplements can prevent reflux symptoms long-term. The required doses may also be difficult to achieve through diet alone.

Impact on Lower Esophageal Sphincter

A 2007 study found curcumin had no significant impact on LES pressure or gastric emptying in 12 healthy adults, suggesting a low risk of provoking reflux events. But a rat study hinted curcumin may relax the LES after gastric ulcer healing. So the impact on the LES remains unclear.

Protective in Some Cases, But Can Also Aggravate

A 2020 review noted turmeric shows protective effects against acid reflux complications like esophagitis in some studies. However, side effects like nausea and stomach upset suggest it could also aggravate reflux symptoms in some individuals.

More Human Research Needed

Overall, while early research on turmeric for acid reflux is promising, there is still a lack of rigorous human trials to confirm beneficial effects. More research is needed to fully understand if turmeric helps or worsens acid reflux symptoms with long-term use.

Who May Want to Exercise Caution With Turmeric?

While moderate dietary turmeric intake is likely safe for most people, certain individuals may want to exercise more caution:

  • Those with a history of significant gastroesophageal reflux complications like bleeding, ulcers, or Barrett's esophagus. Turmeric's theoretical side effects could exacerbate severe reflux.
  • People taking anti-coagulant or anti-platelet medications. Turmeric may increase bleeding risk when combined with these drugs.
  • Anyone with gallstones or bile duct obstructions. Turmeric can stimulate gallbladder contractions.
  • Individuals taking medicines that reduce stomach acid. Turmeric may interfere with the actions of these drugs.
  • People with turmeric allergies or hypersensitivities.

Of course, anyone currently experiencing severe or persistent reflux symptoms should see a doctor to rule out complications before trying natural remedies like turmeric.

Tips for Incorporating Turmeric into an Acid Reflux Diet

For those willing to cautiously test turmeric, here are some tips:

  • Start with small doses like a quarter teaspoon daily to assess tolerance. Slowly increase to 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per day.
  • Mix turmeric powder into smoothies, oatmeal, soups, and sauces. Be sure to combine with fats or black pepper to enhance absorption.
  • Supplements provide more concentrated turmeric doses. But choose enteric-coated capsules to minimize gastric irritation. Follow dosage guidelines.
  • Avoid taking turmeric on an empty stomach, especially at high doses. Always take with food.
  • Stop taking turmeric if any worrisome side effects develop like severe nausea, diarrhea, or pain.
  • Avoid turmeric if you have an ulcerative condition until it has fully healed.
  • Watch for potential turmeric interactions with medicines like blood thinners, antacids, diabetes drugs, and others.
  • Follow an overall acid reflux diet low in triggers like caffeine, alcohol, and fatty or spicy foods.

Moderation and close monitoring of symptoms are important when trying natural remedies like turmeric for acid reflux. What works well for some individuals may worsen symptoms for others.

Can Turmeric Make Acid Reflux Worse?

At appropriate doses, turmeric is likely safe for most people struggling with mild to moderate acid reflux symptoms. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties show promise for helping protect the esophageal lining from stomach acid damage.

However, some people may experience side effects like nausea and stomach upset from turmeric, especially at high doses. There’s also limited clinical evidence confirming long-term benefits for reflux.

While turmeric appears potentially helpful for aiding digestion in general, it’s not a guaranteed fix for acid reflux. Individual reactions vary greatly. Turmeric could aggravate symptoms in sensitive people or those with severe reflux complications.

As with any natural remedy, speak to your doctor first before trying turmeric, especially if you take any medications or have underlying health conditions. Work closely with a healthcare provider to find the right dietary and lifestyle changes to manage your acid reflux.

How much turmeric is safe to take daily?

For acid reflux, it's best to start with small doses like 1⁄4-1⁄2 teaspoon of turmeric powder per day. Slowly increase to 1 teaspoon daily if you tolerate it well. Taking up to 1,000-2,000 mg of curcumin supplements appears safe for most people, but follow label directions.

When is the best time to take turmeric?

Take turmeric alongside meals or with some dietary fat to enhance absorption. Avoid taking it on an empty stomach, especially in large or supplemental doses, as this can trigger gastric side effects.

What's the best way to take turmeric?

Mixing turmeric powder into foods like smoothies, soups, and sauces is an easy way to work it into your diet. Look for enteric-coated capsules if trying turmeric supplements to minimize stomach irritation.

Can I take turmeric while taking antacids or other medicines?

It's best to consult your doctor before taking turmeric alongside prescription medications, including antacids. Turmeric can potentially interact with some medicines like blood thinners and drugs that reduce stomach acid.

Is it safe to take turmeric every day?

Daily turmeric intake within recommended culinary doses appears safe for most healthy individuals. Those with medical conditions should discuss long-term use with their doctor. Take a break from turmeric if any concerning side effects develop.

How long does it take for turmeric to help with acid reflux symptoms?

There isn't enough research to know exactly how quickly turmeric may relieve acid reflux. Limited studies suggest it may take several weeks of daily use to notice potential benefits. Monitor your individual symptoms closely.

Can I drink turmeric tea for acid reflux?

Sipping small amounts of turmeric tea between meals may be soothing for some reflux sufferers. But avoid drinking large amounts on an empty stomach as this may trigger side effects like nausea.

What are signs turmeric is making my reflux worse?

Discontinue turmeric if you experience severe stomach pain, heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, or worsened acid regurgitation after taking it. Minor gastric discomfort may improve with smaller doses taken with food.

Can I take turmeric if I have ulcers or erosions from reflux?

Avoid turmeric supplements until any ulcers, erosions, or other damaged areas have fully healed. Then use small culinary amounts cautiously to see if you tolerate it. Discuss use with your doctor.

Is it safe to use turmeric while pregnant?

Pregnant women should avoid medicinal amounts of turmeric, especially supplements, as curcumin may have mild uterine stimulating effects. However, small culinary amounts are likely fine. Talk to your OB/GYN.

Can children take turmeric?

Turmeric may be safe in small dietary amounts for older children. But avoid giving medicinal turmeric or curcumin supplements to children under 12 unless supervised by a pediatrician.

What diet changes help acid reflux?

Avoiding common triggers like coffee, alcohol, chocolate, spicy foods, and large high-fat meals is key. Eat smaller, more frequent low-acid meals. Follow an anti-inflammatory diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Stay hydrated and manage stress.


Turmeric has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may aid acid reflux, but it also has side effects that could worsen symptoms. Small studies show turmeric may reduce acid damage and pain, but it can also relax the esophageal sphincter and stimulate stomach acid in some cases. Turmeric is likely safe for most people with mild reflux, but those with severe symptoms or taking anticoagulants should use caution. While the limited research is promising, more rigorous human trials are still needed to fully understand turmeric’s impact on acid reflux. People with sensitivities may experience nausea or diarrhea. Moderation and close monitoring of symptoms are important when using turmeric for acid reflux.

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