A study found that the Mediterranean diet is a more effective treatment for acid reflux than prescribed medicines, Daily Mail reported. The results of the study, published in JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, showed that people who ate primarily fish, vegetables, and whole grains, and drank alkaline-heavy water had a greater reduction in their symptoms than those on proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).
PPIs are medicines that work by reducing the amount of stomach acid made by glands in the lining of the stomach, as defined by MedlinePlus.gov. These drugs are the most widely-prescribed form of medication in the U.S., which makes up for more than $10 billion a year in healthcare costs. PPIs relieve symptoms of different types of reflux such as laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). While they have been noted to neutralize the acid in the stomach, they have been also been associated with severe side effects and an increased risk of death.
LPR, also called silent reflux because it does not show symptoms, is a condition in which stomach acid flows back into the esophagus and irritates the throat.
On the other hand, GERD is a condition in which stomach contents flow back into the esophagus caused by the malfunctioning of the lower esophageal sphincter, a ring of muscle at the top of the stomach that normally shuts to stop the contents of the stomach leaking out and up the foodpipe.
Symptoms of reflux include cramp-like spasm and pain which are caused by the inflammation in the esophagus. The contents are highly acidic as they are mixed with the hydrochloric acid produced by the stomach lining to aid digestion. However, the lining of the esophagus is not adjusted to this.
Researchers compared 85 patients treated with PPIs with 99 individuals who followed a 90-percent plant-based, Mediterranean-style diet, who also drank alkaline water.
Their diet consisted mostly of fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts, and barely any dairy or meat such as beef, chicken, fish, eggs, and pork. They also avoided known triggers of reflux such as coffee, tea, chocolate, fizzy drinks, and greasy, fried, spicy, or fatty food, and alcohol.
Patients on the plant-based diet were shown to have lost weight and had fewer medicinal needs for other conditions like high blood pressure and cholesterol.
The diet should help people with LPR or GERD, according to the team of experts from the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in New York and New York Medical College.
“Although effective in some patients, I felt medication couldn't be the only method to treat reflux and recent studies reporting increased rates of stroke and heart attack, dementia, and kidney damage from prolonged PPI use made me more certain,” said lead study author Craig Zalvan.
Zalvan said that he saw a lot of studies using plant-based diets to treat patients for other chronic diseases, so he decided to develop a diet regimen to treat his silent reflux patients. He is positive that the results he and his team found will lead to treating reflux without medication in the future.
Mediterranean-style eating patterns originated in the Mediterranean region, mostly based on the eating habits found in Greece, Spain, and Italy. The Mediterranean diet consists of high consumption of unrefined carbohydrates (such as fruits and vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, fish, and olive oil), moderate amounts of wine and dairy, and low amounts of red or processed meat.
The diet was first recognized around the 1960s because of the low incidents of chronic diseases -- like heart disease -- among people who observed the habit. It then continued to receive worldwide attention in the 1990s as a model for healthy eating. It has now become a popular food diet for people who want to have healthier eating and lifestyle habits. (Related: Mediterranean diet can reverse metabolic disorder, lower risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease.)
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