Is this more effective than acid reflux medication?

Is this more effective than acid reflux medication?

Do you take gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) medication? If you aren’t already a vegetarian, it might be time to consider making the change.

In a recent study published in the JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, physicians analyzed 200 people who were diagnosed with laryngopharyngeal reflux, a condition in which stomach acid travels up the esophagus into the throat.

Common symptoms of the condition include sore throat, the feeling of a lump in the throat, chronic cough and a feeling of needing to clear the throat. Patients are often treated with proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and other medication used to treat GERD. Like any other medication, PPI comes with its own set of side effects, including increased risk of kidney disease and dementia.

In an effort to avoid such risks, physicians at Phelps Hospital in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. began prescribing dietary changes — more specifically, a mostly vegetarian diet. They recommended a 90 percent plant-based diet as well as standard advice for preventing GERD, which includes avoiding coffee, tea, alcohol and fried/fatty foods.

After six weeks, 63 percent of patients following the plant-based diet saw a 6-point drop on the reflux symptom index, which physicians consider “clinically meaningful.” And patients in the vegetarian-diet group lost about eight pounds, a factor that may have contributed to the lessening of reflux symptoms.

Dr. Zahid Afzal, a gastroenterologist at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., weighs in on the research.

“Patients are much more likely to be compliant if they are in the study and being followed. In addition, it is not clear whether it was the vegetarian diet, standard recommendations of the weight loss that led to the improvement,” he says. “It could have been a combination of all three.”

Dr. Afzal says it would be difficult to conclude it was the diet change. “Certainly more work is needed.”

Furthermore, he says “It does not take a study for us to know that diet can make a dramatic difference in our well-being.”

“Patients should always strive for eating a well-balanced diet. It helps with every disease process. Not only do you need to pay attention to watching fat calories, carbohydrates, etc., you also need to be cognizant of total calories consumed.”

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator on the content team at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.