Mediterranean-style diet may eliminate need for reflux medications

A plant-based, Mediterranean-style diet has been shown to provide the same medical benefits for treating laryngopharyngeal reflux* as popular reflux medications.

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When compared to patients who took the traditional reflux medication, proton pump inhibitors (PPI), those patients who consumed a 90-95% whole food, plant-based, Mediterranean-style diet paired with alkaline water had the same if not better reduction in reflux symptoms. 62.6% of patients treated with a plant-based diet and alkaline water saw a six point reduction in their Reflux Symptom Index (RSI), a measurement for the severity of reflux symptoms, compared to 54.1% reduction in patients taking PPI’s. Though this research only focused on those with laryngopharyngeal reflux, this same diet regimen has implications to help patients with gastro-esophageal acid reflux (also known as GERD).

Lead author of the study, Craig H. Zalvan, MD, FACS, chief of Otolaryngology and medical director of The Institute for Voice and Swallowing Disorders at Northwell Health’s Phelps Hospital and researcher at the Feinstein Institute, said he was formerly one of the largest prescribers of PPI’s in the region. Feeling that there had to be a better approach to treating reflux conditions, such as laryngopharyngeal reflux, he started to research alternatives. “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 Dr. Zalvan. “I did research and saw a lot of studies using plant-based diets to treat patients for many other chronic diseases, so I decided to develop a diet regimen to treat my laryngopharyngeal reflux patients. The results we found show we are heading in the right direction to treating reflux without medication.”

The diet suggested by Dr. Zalvan consists of mostly fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts with almost complete elimination of dairy and meats including beef, chicken, fish, eggs and pork. This is in addition to standard reflux diet precautions, such as avoiding coffee, tea, chocolate, soda, greasy, fried, spicy, and fatty foods as well as alcohol. Along with relieving reflux symptoms, Dr. Zalvan noted that many of his patients who were treated with a plant-based diet also experienced some weight loss and a reduction of symptoms and medication use from other medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Dr. Zalvan said that a plant-based diet approach with alkaline water and standard reflux precautions should either be attempted prior to the use of medication or with the short-term use of medication for more severe needs. “Dr. Zalvan’s approach of challenging assumptions in treatment norms epitomizes our view of medical research at the Feinstein Institute and Northwell Health,” said Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institute. “We are committed to developing novel strategies to benefit our patients in a way that positively impacts medical practice globally.”

* Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) is also known as extraesophageal reflux disease (EERD)

Reference: 

Craig H. Zalvan, Shirley Hu, Barbara Greenberg, Jan Geliebter. A Comparison of Alkaline Water and Mediterranean Diet vs Proton Pump Inhibition for Treatment of Laryngopharyngeal Reflux. JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, 2017; DOI: 10.1001/jamaoto.2017.1454

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Have A Plan of Action! When meal planning, take a peek at at your kitchen, see what you have on hand, and plan what you need to get. It’s all about being armed with streamlined recipes, planning for the week, and having a calculated grocery list to stock your pantry strategically. A well-stocked pantry also helps with last-minute meals at a moment’s notice. You don’t need to keep a lot of food on hand, just the right food on hand to produce balanced meals, meaning proteins, vegetables and whole grains. Broth, dried herbs and spices, a couple oils and a few vinegars also boost flavor.

Daily Inspiration 

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