Why the Mediterranean diet is the best cure for acid reflux: Study found patients who ate plenty of fish and veg had fewer symptoms and avoided side effects of medication

  • Patients with acid reflux are often prescribed proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
  • PPIs are the most widely-prescribed meds in the US but carry side effects
  • Now a study shows people on the Mediterranean diet had the same results

Sticking to a Mediterranean diet is just as effective at controlling reflux as medicines prescribed to millions of people each year, research suggests.

Patients who ate primarily fish, vegetables and whole grains – and drank alkaline-heavy water – reported a greater reduction in their symptoms than those on proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), the small study found.

PPIs are the most widely-prescribed form of medication in the US, accounting for more than $10 billion a year in healthcare costs.

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Pop a Pill for Heartburn? Try Diet and Exercise Instead

Many Americans would rather take a drug than change their habits to control a persistent ailment. Yet, every medication has side effects, some of which can be worse than the disease they are meant to treat. Drugs considered safe when first marketed can turn out to have hazards, both bothersome and severe, that become apparent only after millions of people take them for a long enough time.

Such is the case with a popular class of drugs called proton pump inhibitors, or P.P.I.s, now used by more than 15 million Americans and many more people worldwide to counter an increasingly common ailment: acid reflux, which many people refer to as heartburn or indigestion.

These medications are now linked to a growing number of complications, ranging in seriousness from nutrient deficiencies, joint pain and infections to bone fractures, heart attacks and dementia. While definitive evidence for most of the risks identified thus far is lacking, consumers plagued by acid reflux would be wise to consider an alternative approach, namely diet and lifestyle changes that can minimize symptoms and even heal damage already done.

Acid reflux is more than just a nuisance. It involves the backward flow of stomach acid into the tissues above it. It results when the lower esophageal sphincter, a ring of muscle between the esophagus and the stomach, fails to close tightly enough to prevent the contents of the stomach from moving up instead of down. Sometimes the upper sphincter, between the esophagus and the throat, malfunctions as well.

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