Can a Mediterranean-type Diet Improve Acid Reflux?

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Eating a mostly vegetarian diet may be as effective as taking a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) to relieve symptoms of a form of stomach acid reflux called laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), according to a new study. Common LPR symptoms include a chronic cough, constant throat clearing, a feeling of a lump in the throat, and hoarseness. The problem with PPIs (Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec) is that they can interact with other drugs, and long-term use is associated with an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, fractures, dementia, and kidney damage.

The study compared two groups of patients with LPR over six weeks. One group (average age, 60) used PPIs. The other group (average age, 57) instead followed a plant-based diet and drank alkaline water, which is less acidic than tap water. About 54 percent of patients in the PPI group found relief from their reflux symptoms, whereas nearly 63 percent of patients in the diet-only group reported improvement.The findings were published online September 2017in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

THE CAVEAT: Researchers tested the diet on people with LPR, which is less common than gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Only about 35 percent of people with LPR experience heartburn, the hallmark symptom of GERD. However, the researchers say that the findings could have positive implications for people with GERD, who might also benefit from a dietary approach.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Consider a plant-based diet if you suffer from acid reflux. The study participants focused on the vegetarian aspects of the Mediterranean diet and ate animal-based products like meat and dairy only two to three times a week. Their diet consisted mostly of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Stick with tap water, however. There’s no credible evidence that alkaline water does any good for your body-and it’s bad for your wallet.