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What is Sodium Alginate and How Can It Help Digestion?

In trying to manage both my GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease) and my IBS, I have had to play a delicate balancing act. In fact, many of the mainline treatments for GERD, like Proton Pump Inhibitors (like Prilosec, Nexium, etc.) or Histamine/H2 Blockers (Pepcid AC, Zantac, etc.) can, at times, adversely impact IBS. I have had to think outside of the box and really do a lot of in-depth research to find alternatives that could alleviate my reflux and heartburn without instigating or aggravating my IBS symptoms. It was through this search that I basically happened upon something called “sodium alginate,” also sometimes called alginic acid.

What is alignic acid?

Alginic acid is a refined form of brown algae or seaweed. When my GERD issues were hitting a fever pitch level and PPIs and H2 blockers were not doing their job, a doctor recommended I try Gaviscon. I bought some over the counter. However, the US brand had aluminum in it, which I didn’t want to take a lot of, and also while it helped, it still wasn’t effective enough for me.

Using sodium alignate for reflux

I did some further reading on chat boards for those with severe gastritis and discovered that the UK brand not only didn’t have aluminum in it but instead used a lot more sodium alginate in its formula. People reported it was much more effective in inhibiting reflux. Unlike PPIs or H2 blockers, which act to make chemical changes in the body (PPIs by slowing or shutting down the proton pump in the stomach, H2 blockers by inhibiting the productions of histamine), sodium alginate acts mechanically. That is, it coats the stomach and forms a physical barrier, or raft, between the stomach and esophagus, so that acid cannot rise into the throat. I found using sodium alginate VERY helpful in controlling reflux.

Digging into research on sodium alignate for digestive health

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Specifically, one study published in 2015 revealed that in animal trials of those subjects with chronic ulcerative colitis that those animals administered sodium alginate experienced reduced damage to the colon compared to controls and ulcerative colitis was suppressed in those cases.1

My experiences with sodium alignate

As for me at least, taking alginic acid has never bothered my IBS (except for those brands that also have other fillers, like fructose, which is an IBS trigger). In fact, it seems to benefit it in some ways. I can’t tell if that is because the sodium alginate itself is soothing to the lower as well as the upper GI tract or if by controlling reflux, it has a chain effect to also control IBS symptoms (like gas, bloating, etc.). Either way, some form of sodium alginate may be worth considering as an option for you if you have both IBS and GERD and have a low tolerance for PPIs or H2 blockers. But of course, you should always check with a doctor first. Also, since sodium alginate has an absorbent effect with digestion, one should be cautious to not take it too close to other medications or supplements as I believe it can interfere with them.

Have you ever taken any product with sodium alginate to help manage a digestive issue (whether GERD, IBD or IBS)? Did it help? Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The IrritableBowelSyndrome.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Razavi A1, Khodadadi A, Eslami MB, Eshraghi S, Mirshafiey A. Therapeutic effect of sodium alginate in experimental chronic ulcerative colitis. Iran J Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2008 Mar;7(1):13-8. doi: 07.01/ijaai.1318. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18322307. Accessed: January 7, 2020.

Comments

  • Elizabeth Alvarez moderator
    3 weeks ago

    I have never taken sodium alginate to help with my IBS but I have heard of it. Great article explaining what it is. Thank you for sharing.

    Elizabeth (team member)

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