These diet changes can help reduce acid reflux, study finds

If you’ve been struggling to treat your acid reflux, a new study may offer some insight into how you can alleviate your symptoms.

According to a press release from Massachusetts General Hospital, the results from one of the longest-running studies in women’s health have shown that five lifestyle factors can make a vital impact on heartburn symptoms.

The factors include maintaining a normal weight, never smoking, engaging in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for at least 30 minutes daily, limiting consumption of sodas, coffee and tea to two cups daily, and a “prudent” diet.

“This study provides evidence that common and debilitating gastrointestinal symptoms could be well controlled in many cases with diet and lifestyle modifications alone,” senior author Dr. Andrew T. Chan said in a press release. “Given that there are long-term health effects of GERD and lingering concerns about the side effects of medications used to treat it, lifestyle should be considered the best option for controlling symptoms.”

Established in 1989, the Nurses’ Health Study requires participants to return a detailed health survey biannually. It started with 116,671 participants and has exceeded 90% follow-up. For the heartburn study, it pulled nearly 43,000 women between the ages of 42 to 62 who were asked about GERD or heartburn symptoms from 2005 to 2017.

Using a statistical model that allowed them to tabulate the “population-attributable risk” for GERD symptoms tied to the anti-reflux lifestyle factors, researchers discovered a 37% overall drop in symptoms.

When women adhered to more specific guidelines, they had a further reduced risk of symptoms. Women who used typical heartburn treatments such as proton pumps and adhered to the guidelines also had diminished symptoms.

“We were particularly interested in the effectiveness of physical activity,” Chan said. “This is one of the first studies that has demonstrated its effectiveness in controlling GERD.”

He added that “being physically active may help with the clearance of stomach acid which causes heartburn symptoms.”