Relief for chronic heartburn without a drug

Dr. Frank Shallenberger, MD

June 28, 2021


Melatonin is good for sleep. You already know that.

And you also probably know how good it is for immune function and cancer prevention.

But did you know that it can also relieve one of the most common maladies of our time?

If you don’t have it yourself, you probably know someone who does.

I’m talking about chronic heartburn, which the medical world calls GERD or reflux disease.

And several studies show just how powerful this remedy is for heartburn.

A recent study looked at 350 patients with GERD. The doctors gave half of them 6 mg of melatonin along with some common nutrients, which I will tell you about.

They gave the other half 20 mg of omeprazole, commonly sold as Prilosec. Most doctors will tell you omeprazole is one of the best drugs for GERD. And 20 mg is a maximum dose.

So how did it stack up against melatonin?

Every single one of the melatonin patients was free of all symptoms after 40 days of treatment. And none of them had any observed side effects.

Compare this to the omeprazole group. Only 65.7% of them were symptom free. And there were side effects. Just over 1% stopped taking the drug because of persistent headache. Another 4% had diarrhea. And 1.7% developed high blood pressure.

But It Gets Better for Melatonin

After the study ended, the doctors started the 60 patients who had not responded to omeprazole on the melatonin therapy. Once again, after 40 days, every single one of them was free of symptoms. I think that’s amazing.

But why does melatonin work for GERD? There are a number of reasons.

Your brain makes melatonin in response to sunlight. But that’s not the only place your body makes it. Your body also makes it in the enterochromaffin cells in the intestinal tract. In fact, the enterochromaffin cells typically make 400 times more melatonin than the brain does!

Sunlight does not affect melatonin in the intestines. Instead, your intestines release it when you eat. And melatonin has some wonderful effects on the gastrointestinal tract.

It prevents ulcers, stops an overproduction of stomach acid, prevents intestinal infections, promotes ulcer healing, and increases circulation.

Melatonin also reduces nitric oxide synthesis in the esophageal sphincter. Nitric oxide causes the sphincter to relax and allows stomach acid to reflux up into the esophagus. This is a major mechanism of reflux in patients with GERD, and melatonin corrects it.

However, GERD causes more symptoms than just heartburn. It can also cause vomiting, difficulty swallowing, chronic coughing, and hoarseness.

So try some melatonin (6 mg) before you turn to any prescription or over-the-counter drugs. It works better and has almost no side effects (other than drowsiness and possibly grogginess).

Beyond Melatonin

As great as the story of melatonin is, there’s more you can do to fight heartburn. The researchers used several other nutrients with the melatonin. They were: l-tryptophan (200 mg), d,l-methionine (100 mg), betaine (100 mg), folic acid (10 mg), vitamin B6 (25 mg), and vitamin B12 (50 mcg).

They used l-tryptophan because it converts to melatonin in the enterochromaffin cells. The other supplements stimulate the methylation cycle. One of the products of the methylation cycle is SAMe, which has successfully cured stomach ulcers in animals.

But these aren’t the only nutrients you can take with melatonin. In fact, not too long ago, I reviewed a study that may point to the perfect partner for melatonin.

The researchers in this study looked at an oil extracted from the peels of blood oranges. They wanted to know if d-limonene — a known cancer fighter — could treat heartburn and reflux (GERD).

The study, which I found in U.S. Patent #6,420,435, reports on 19 patients with chronic heartburn and reflux. Each one took 1,000 mg of d-limonene either every day or every other day.

After 14 days, 89% of patients reported that all their symptoms were gone. That’s right, 9 out of 10 participants said their symptoms were gone!

The same patent also reported the results of an experiment with 13 patients with heartburn and reflux. Half took a placebo and the other half took 1,000 mg of d-limonene once a day.

In only four days, 29% of the patients on the d-limonene were significantly better. And after two weeks, 86% had complete relief. Only 29% of those on the placebo had complete relief.

In another study, this one out of Texas, researchers had participants take purified d-limonene every other day for 20 days. They found that it reduced or eliminated GERD symptoms in most people for six months or longer. In other words, taking d-limonene every other day for 20 days had an ongoing effect – it chased the heartburn away for at least six months.

Could it be that d-limonene can not only cure heartburn and reflux but that it can also prevent esophageal cancer — a common end of heartburn? We know this powerful nutrient fights cancer. So it would make sense. But combining it with melatonin might just be the most important discovery ever for the treatment of heartburn and reflux.


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Hakim, I.A., R.B. Harris, and C. Ritenbaugh. “Citrus peel use is associated with reduced risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin.” Nutr Cancer 2000;37:161-168.

Lu, X.G., L.B. Zhan, B.A. Feng, et al. “Inhibition of growth and metastasis of human gastric cancer implanted in nude mice by d-limonene.” World J Gastroenterol. 2004 July 15;10(14):2140-4.

Murthy, Chidambara, K.N., G.K. Jayaprakasha, and B.S. Patil. “D-limonene rich volatile oil from blood oranges inhibits angiogenesis, metastasis and cell death in human colon cancer cells.” Life Sci. 2012 October 5;91(11-12):429-39.

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Willette, R.C., L. Barrow, R. Doster, J. Wilkins, J.S. Wilkins, and J.P. Heggers. “Purified d-limonene: an effective agent for the relief of occasional symptoms of heartburn. Proprietary study.” WRC Laboratories, Inc. Galveston, TX.

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