Can You Use Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) to Treat Acid Reflux?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

DGL for acid reflux

Many acid reflux treatments are available. Most doctors recommend over-the- counter (OTC) medications. Alternative therapies may also be able to ease your symptoms.

One such option is deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL). People believe that using this a few times per day will alleviate acid reflux symptoms.

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Acid reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) fails to close completely. The LES seals food, and acid that breaks down food, in the stomach. If the LES doesn’t close completely, the acid can travel back up the esophagus. This can cause a burning sensation.

DGL is a form of licorice that people have processed for safer consumption. They remove a substantial amount of a substance called glycyrrhizin. This makes DGL safer for long-term use and has less interactions with medical conditions or medications than licorice extract.

Most licorice comes from Asia, Turkey, and Greece. You can find DGL in several forms, most frequently in tablets or capsules.

What are the benefits of DGL?

Traditionally, women have used licorice root extract to balance their hormones during menstruation and menopause. Today, licorice is present in some home remedies.

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People believe licorice eases a sore throat, treats ulcers, and helps clear respiratory infections such as bronchitis.

Licorice root may even treat viral infections, such as hepatitis. Clinical trials have found that an injectable form of licorice extract has shown effects against hepatitis C that are beneficial. More research is needed to determine whether this is a viable treatment option.

Some doctors and alternative health advocates recommend DGL for acid reflux.

According to a 2014 study, DGL was shown to promote mucus activity. This extra mucus may act as a barrier to acid in the stomach and esophagus. This barrier can allow the damaged tissue to heal and prevent future occurrences of acid reflux.

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A 2018 study found that DGL was more effective than acid-suppressive drugs. This supported earlier research.

Risks and warnings

The FDA doesn’t regulate herbal supplements and other alternative therapies. Depending on the manufacturer, supplement ingredients can vary.

You shouldn’t use licorice if you’re taking diuretics, corticosteroids, or other medications that lower your body’s potassium levels. Licorice can amplify the effects of these medications and cause your potassium levels to become dangerously low.

If you’re using DGL, be sure to discuss potential interactions with your doctor.

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People who have heart disease or high blood pressure should exercise caution when taking licorice extract. Women who are pregnant should avoid using licorice as a supplement because it may increase the risk of preterm labor.

In all cases of treating acid reflux, it’s best with your doctor. Choose DGL over licorice extract to reduce the chances of interactions with other medications.

If you’re using an alternative therapy that your doctor didn’t prescribe, you should let them know. This will help them determine the best care and help you avoid potential conflicts with other treatments.

Other acid reflux treatment options

Many medications on the market can alleviate acid reflux symptoms as well as treat the condition.

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Antacids can neutralize stomach acids and provide temporary relief for acid reflux. You should only take them for a short period. These are best suited for people who have infrequent acid reflux.

H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) control stomach acid for a longer period than antacids do. Some of these are available over the counter.

This includes famotidine (Pepcid) and omeprazole (Prilosec). Your doctor can also prescribe stronger versions of these medications if necessary.

Each form of medication has associated side effects. Antacids can cause diarrhea and constipation. H2 blockers and PPIs can increase your risk for bone fracture or a B12 deficiency.

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You should consult your doctor if you take any OTC acid reflux medication for more than 2 weeks.

In rare instances, you may need surgery to repair the lower esophageal sphincter.

The takeaway

Acid reflux is a common condition that can cause serious discomfort and damage your esophagus.

You should work with your doctor to determine the best treatment plan for you. If you decide to try an alternative therapy, such as DGL, let your doctor know.

They can talk to you about any side effects, making sure it’s right for you and that it won’t affect any medications you’re currently taking.

Learn about other alternative treatments for acid reflux.

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