Read This Before You Reach for the Antacid

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Fenugreek is a herb with a funny name. It is also a potent healer, in that it could reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Fenugreek could help decrease fasting blood sugar levels (the level you are at between meals). It could also help regulate the amount of glucose in your urine. It does this by delaying gastric emptying and preventing your body from absorbing glucose in your gut. And, fenugreek enhances the secretion of insulin.

Now, researchers have discovered that fenugreek may make a safe and quick remedy for heartburn.

Acid reflux is generally characterized by persistent heartburn, especially after eating. Chest pain and indigestion are also common symptoms. Acid reflux occurs when the liquid in the stomach — which contains acid, pepsin, and sometimes bile — backs up into the esophagus, causing inflammation and perhaps damage to the lining. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is at the end of your esophagus, opens while you are eating and is supposed to close quickly to stop food and stomach liquids from going back into the esophagus. Sometimes this muscle doesn’t move fast enough and you get heartburn — a burning sensation in the back of the chest, occasionally accompanied by the feeling that food is coming back up. If this happens frequently, it causes acid reflux.

Simple diet changes, such as avoiding spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, and citric acid, may help to lessen the discomfort, but fenugreek may also help to coat the esophagus, protecting it from the acid.

In the clinical trial involving the herb, patients with frequent heartburn were recruited. The participants were given a two-week intake of fenugreek, taken 30 minutes before meals each day. The research team used a symptom diary, and reduced any medication the participants were currently taking to manage their heartburn.

They found that fenugreek diminished heartburn severity. They also noted that the fenugreek effects were generally similar to the results produced by an antacid medication. The researchers concluded that this study suggests that people with heartburn could benefit from taking fenugreek.

In India, fenugreek is used to flavor many curries. It is also widely used in Middle Eastern dishes and in recipes from North Africa. Fenugreek seeds are a bit bitter and very hard, so they are usually roasted and ground before use to mellow their flavor. Try roasting some and adding to your favorite entrees. Or you can make fenugreek tea, if you’re not certain how to cook with fenugreek. You can buy fenugreek in powdered form as well. Powdered fenugreek has a surprisingly sweet taste, not unlike maple syrup.

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Dr. Victor Marchione, MD

About the Author, Browse Victor's Articles

Victor Marchione, MD received his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1973 and his Medical Degree from the University of Messina in 1981. He has been licensed and practicing medicine in New York and New Jersey for over 20 years. Dr. Marchione is a respected leader in the field of smoking cessation and pulmonary medicine. He has been featured on ABC News and World Report, CBS Evening News and the NBC Today Show and is the editor of the popular The... Read Full Bio »