Tummy aches. Chest pain. Bloating. These are all common and unpleasant symptoms of heartburn, otherwise known as acid reflux. Every year, consumers spend $13 billion a year on acid-reflux medications, reports Time, but a study recently published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery suggests we might be better off spending more on bananas and broccoli along with a few lifestyle changes.
One of the most prevalent health problems in America, acid reflux comes in two distinct forms.
1. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This is the more common variant, which happens when too much stomach acid accumulates. This can force the acid back into the lower esophagus, or the lower esophageal sphincter, causing irritation. GERD symptoms include a painful, burning sensation in the chest, bloating, and general stomach discomfort.
2. Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR). The other type of acid reflex results from pepsin-- an enzyme the body produces during digestion--reaching the upper esophagus where it never should reach. This can cause damage to the esophagus's sensitive lining. Common symptoms of LPR include hoarseness, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and excessive throat clearing.
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How is Acid Reflux Treated?
To treat acid reflux, patients are often given proton pump inhibitors (PPI). These types of anti-flux medications are available prescription and over-the-counter. Natural remedies in small amounts are often used to soothe discomfort in the digestive tract, but typically medication was the only way to treat patients with moderate to severe acid reflux.
Now, scientists believe a Mediterranean diet may be just as, if not more effective than drugs for some types of acid reflux. From encouraging weight loss and working to prevent free radicals that cause cancer, the high fat Mediterranean diet is one of the best diets for heart health. It also limits the acid production in your body based on the certain foods that are often promoted while eating Med style.
What Kind of Food Helps Heartburn?
According to the researchers, a healthy, plant-based diet may be as effective as drugs in treating acid reflux--specifically the LPR variety. The study revealed virtually no difference between the dietary and drug treatments when comparing the frequency of acid reflux symptoms.
In order to study the potential efficacy of a diet-based treatment, researchers compared two groups of LPR patients. Researchers assigned one group of 99 patients a "Mediterranean" diet heavy in fruits, nuts, legumes, and vegetables as treatment. The second crew followed a traditional proton-pump inhibitor (PPI) drug regimen.
Researchers also instructed both cohorts to avoid common acid-reflux trigger foods like spicy food, fried foods, fatty foods, alcohol, and caffeine in coffee beverages. They recommended citrus fruits be consumed in small amounts.
The results? Patients following the dietary treatment reported a noticeably larger degree of relief than those using drugs. The diet group reported a mean average reduction of 39.9 percent in symptoms versus just 27.7 percent among the medication-taking group.
Could a Mediterranean Diet Replace Anti-Acid Drugs?
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So should you swap your Pepto-Bismol for walnuts and spinach? It's too early to say, but scientists are already promising future studies to determine long-term results. For now, evidence strongly supports a potential future for diet-based acid reflux treatments that will also help with nausea associated with acid reflux.
While we're still waiting for conclusive findings, we do know that adopting a Mediterranean diet can't hurt. It's proven to combat obesity, ease arthritis, and diminish allergies. And, following plant-based diets does wonders for your health, energy, and waistline, anyway.
Finally, while PPIs come with relatively few serious side effects, recent studies have shown possible evidence of higher rates of stroke, heart attack, and kidney damage. Apples and almonds, on the other hand, are just delicious.