Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) To Treat Acid Reflux and Ulcers: Is It Safe?

Licorice refers to the root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant. The generic name “Glycyrrhiza” is derived from the Greek meaning “sweet root.”  Glycyrrhizin is 150 times sweeter than sucrose. This compound gives licorices most of its therapeutic uses.

Licorice is available in many forms, either containing glycyrrhizin or as deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL). Deglycyrrhizinated licorice or DGL is product available in the market does not contains the glycyrrhizin from licorice.

DGL for Stomach Ulcers

In the 1940s a Dutch doctor studied licorice as he noticed his patients with ulcer had being cured by high doses of licorice extract. He found that glycyrrhizin, a triterpene saponin, is one of  the constituents responsible for ulcer healing.

A group of compounds in licorice, the triterpene saponins, are responsible for the herb’s sweetness and possibly also for its antiviral effects and its success in healing stomach ulcers.

DGL for Acid Reflux

Licorice soothes the gastrointestinal tract and helps relieve heartburn, stomach ulcers and gastritis. Thanks to its demulcent, or tissue-coating properties, licorice root can coast sore throats and soothe coughs, heartburn, and gastritis.

It is possible that the thick mucilage from licorice provides the coating to protect the esophagus from the acid when people get reflux.

Risks and Warnings

In 2011 the FDA issued a pre-Halloween warning about the overconsumption of “licorice flavor” in Halloween candy. This is mainly due to a compound present in licorice called glycyrrhizin.

Excessive consumption of the glycyrrhizin found in licorice can lead to complications such as low potassium levels (hypokalemia), increased blood pressure (hypertension), muscle weakness and fetal development in pregnant women. Concerns about potassium and sodium can be avoided by taking DGL product.

You can buy DGL in powder or tablet form. The easiest way to take it is to chew two tablets slowly 15 minutes before every meal and at bedtime, or take one-half teaspoon of the powder before meals.

The Bottom Line

Many digestive issues are driven by dietary patterns. Dietary changes should always come first, then supplements. >> Read about the Healthy Plate Method to start making dietary changes.

After doing a thorough scan of the diet and making proper changes, I often recommend a dietary supplement called DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) for digestive problems including heartburn and stomach ulcers.

Be sure to check with a qualified healthcare provider if you are taking any medications before ingesting licorice.

Written by Nazirber De La Cruz, RDN, CDN, CDE

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