The People's Perspective on Medicine

How to Use Melatonin to Ease Reflux

Although melatonin is usually sold over the counter as a sleep aid, there is research that indicates it can help ease symptoms of acid reflux.

Pros & Cons of PPIs:

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Prilosec) and pantoprazole (Protonix) are commonly prescribed to treat acid reflux. Although such drugs usually ease heartburn and other symptoms quite well, research has revealed a number of downsides, particularly over the long term. PPIs increase the risk of pneumonia, diarrhea due to Clostridium difficile (Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology, July, 2013), bone fractures (Annals of Epidemiology, April, 2014) and nutritional deficiencies. Kidney damage (JAMA Internal Medicine, Feb., 2016) and dementia (JAMA Neurology, April, 2016) are frightening long-term consequences that have recently been revealed. You could read more about these problems here.

It is little wonder that people are looking for alternatives to calm their symptoms. Could they use melatonin?

Might You Use Melatonin for Barrett’s Esophagus?

Q. As I understand it, Prilosec is useful for Barrett’s (and GERD). It helps heal irritation in the esophagus that could lead to cancer. But it seems there is no conclusive evidence that using Prilosec prevents cancer.

Melatonin for the Digestive Tract:

Today I read that melatonin does just as good a job at healing the body. Apparently, it takes about 30 days.

Using Melatonin to Discontinue a PPI:

You can even take it with Prilosec, and that will make it easier to get off the acid suppressor. I plan to gradually reduce my dose of Prilosec by taking melatonin. I’ll use an H2 blocker or an antacid like Tums instead if I have symptoms. This seems to be working for me.

The Research Findings on Melatonin for Digestive Problems:

A. We usually think of melatonin in connection with the brain, especially for sleep. Apparently, that is not its only function in the body.

A pilot study found that melatonin, alone or in combination with omeprazole (Prilosec) “is a promising therapeutic agent for the treatment of GERD. It is an effective line of treatment in relieving epigastric pain and heartburn” (BMC Gastroenterology, online Jan. 18, 2010).  A review of other studies concludes that melatonin supplements can speed ulcer healing (Current Pharmaceutical Design, vol. 20 #30, 2014).

There are a number of other natural approaches to easing heartburn symptoms that may be useful for people who would like to discontinue taking a PPI or would prefer not to start taking such a drug. You can learn more about ginger, persimmon tea and deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) in our Guide to Digestive Disorders.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I have GERD so severe that I experience a burning in the back of my mouth and chronic breathlessness. I am so depressed, as I can’t breathe or even talk at times, and my throat feels like it’s on fire. I am on Omeprozole, and I must have taken 3, 10 mg gelatin tablets. I hope it will work. I am at my wits’ end.

I have been taking PPIs for decades, and I have tried to get off them, but the rebound reflux was so horrible, I quit. Also, I started taking prescription Nexium before it it was OTC, because I have GERD! I mean I had severe recurrent heartburn, so I needed to take something. And the PPI have worked for that for all these years. sorta. My journey follows:

I switched from prescription Nexium which my insurance company made difficult to obtain, to ordering a kind of generic aciphex online (rabeprazole). When the supplier turned out to be in China, I didn’t think I could trust it. So then I went to the drug store and bought OTC generic lansoprazole. I take 40 mgs lansoprazole daily. And sometimes that’s not enough, and I supplement with Gaviscon tabs.

A year or so ago, however, I finally began to have the vitamin B shortage and developed sores in the corners of my mouth. So I started taking vitamin B, and that fixed it. Yet, I read People’s Pharmacy and what you say makes sense, so I think I would like to get off this PPI.

I have bought the guide to digestive health, and read this thread, and I have just bought a ton of the recommended helps including generic famotidine, culturelle, ginger root caps, turmeric caps, and my old friend acidophilus. I had to go online to order the melatonin, DGL (deglycerized licorice tabs), aloe vera gel and apple cider vinegar caps. What I am having trouble understanding is whether to take all this stuff every day? or to choose just one or two of them? as I try to reduce the 40 mgs of lansoprazole I have been taking daily.

I think the ginger, turmeric, culturelle, acidophilus, licorice, aloe and vinegar are probably harmless. I won’t take the generic pepcid (famotidine) unless I have heartburn. But I must say I am worried about all this, and not looking forward to that rebound reflux.

I tried to get info from the NIH on this, and sadly there is nothing I could find. I sure wish the authorities would comment. There are some great articles, well referenced in the latest (February Issue) of LIFE EXTENSION MAGAZINE, the theme of which is GERD this month – Check it out. I am particularly interested in their mention of raft alginates, which are basically herbs in a chewable form that expand and float on the top of the gastric contents, effectively forming a barrier which prevents the gastric acidic contents from splashing up into the esophagus. This works WITHOUT decreasing the stomach acid at all, which BELONGS in the STOMACH where it is intended to do a very important job in proper digestion so nutrients can be absorbed!

In reply to dosages. References were provided so that you could read scientific studies regarding them. Here is a quote: “patients suffering from GERD; receiving melatonin alone for treatment of GERD in a dose of 3 mg once daily at the bedtime [10]. Group III included nine patients suffering from GERD, receiving omeprazole alone for treatment of GERD in a dose of 20 mg twice daily [11]. Group IV included nine patients suffering from GERD receiving omeprazole and melatonin for treatment of GERD in the same dose of each of them.”
It is from an interesting article.

This entry has an aspirational title. What you’ll find out if you follow the research listed – and further googling – is that you might take up to 6 mg of melatonin before bedtime or split the dose and take half with a meal earlier in the day.

My husband has taken 3 mg of melatonin at bedtime for about four years now for its anti-cancer benefits and unless he sticks to a very low-carb diet still has reflux. He’ll now try 6 mg for several months to see if it makes a difference. I’m upping my dose as well because melatonin seems to have a beneficial effect on the gut lining – I have atrophic gastritis and none of the doctors I’ve seen has suggested any help for that.

Will taking Melatonin work for getting off Dexilant also? I am taking a 60 MG daily. Thank you.

We don’t know for sure, but it is worth trying along with a gradual reduction in dose.

Since it is widly known as a sleep aid, how much and when should it be taken with an antacid?

As you reviewed the recent literature, any evidence melatonin can ease silent reflux (a trigger of nighttime wheezing)?

Battling breast cancer, I found a naturopath who specializes in cancer treatment & he has, among a few other immune boosters. Recommended high dose Melatonin. The Naturopathic college here agreed with that as I checked. Interesting??

I am going to send this to a friend who has expressed concern about the nexium she is taking and its ability to block absorption of certain nutrients she takes for her hypoparathyroidism.

Thank you. Again. The work you do is very valuable; I am glad you keep archives which can be rerun and pick up new, helpful, comments and suggestions.

I’m just assuming that the melatonin needs to be taken at night before bed ? Is there a recommendation on the dosage needed ? I’d love to be able to discontinue my heartburn medication. Thanks.

I hunted for a study that specified the dose and finally found it: BMC Gastroenterology, online Jan. 18, 2010. Here’s the quote:

“We used an oral fast release melatonin at a dose of 3 mg/day for 4 and 8 weeks. Werbach [24] found that melatonin up to 6 mg at bedtime may be an effective treatment for GERD with fewer and less serious adverse effects.” In the context, that is less serious adverse effects than PPIs.

On a major TV station in the Atlanta area on May 2, 2016, there was a segment about PPI’s. The same information that has been stated on People’s Pharmacy for a while now, was repeated, and later followed by one of those lawyers’ commercials looking for consumers to join a class-action suit concerning PPI users. Looks like this is more serious that first suggested. I am trying to withdraw from my Zantac generic, even though it is not one of the worst ones.

Could we have more specific information on the amount of melatonin to take for gerd? It is assumed the dosage would be taken before retiring for the evening.

If one decides to use melatonin for acid reflux, what would be the suggested dosage and frequency? When is the best time to take it? What about papaya / papain? My doctor wanted to prescribe PPIs for me a few years ago. Instead I decided to chew 2 or 3 papaya tablets. This always brings relief whenever I have occasional indigestion or upset stomach. The papaya also alleviated the burning sensation in my esophagus & stomach following a week of antibiotics.

Recommended melatonin dosage, please.

What dosage of Melatonin would you use and when would you take it?

More information about the amount of melatonin, dosing time – bedtime I’d imagine given its sleep-inducing properties – would be helpful.

Also, do tart cherries – which have some relationship to melatonin – and products made from them work too? Such products are gaining popularity with athletes for anti-inflammatory and muscle recovery properties.

What dose of Melatonin to take to get off ppi’s ?

Please note the FDA website has a 5 page paper warning about Magnesium loss, which will lead to Potassium loss. I only learned of these life-threatening side effects when I got out of the hospital, where I had been on Iv minerals for 3 weeks, because of my occasional use of proton – pump inhibitors! I now have to take prescription Potassium along with 3 tablets of sustained-release Magnesium for 5 years, & get my levels checked quarterly. Beware of Proton Pump Inhibitors! They almost killed me!

I have been taking Solux (Lansoprazole) for 4-5yrs for at times severe GERD. For many months at various times I was taking it twice a day to control symptoms. Other times I could cut down to 1 a day. I had tried several times over the years to come off it but the reflux was so bad I had to restart the Solux.

I have been reading your posts about PPI’s for a few months now and was concerned at the mounting number of side effects I was becoming aware of. I was determined to have another go at coming off Solux. I am pleased to say I have been Solux free for 3 weeks now. It has been difficult and painful and I am still struggling at times but am succeeding.
I have taken quite a lot of Gaviscon both liquid and chewable tablets and I have increased my water intake which seems to be working. Thanks for the continuing information.

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