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Good news for GERD sufferers
GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) is a real challenge, both for doctors and patients. Most commonly it is treated with lifestyle change.

Celiac Disease and GERD
The symptoms of Celiac Disease can range from none at all to diarrhea, stomach pain and bloating, and even acid reflux and other symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Yes, GERD (Acid Reflux) is linked to higher BMI
Recently researchers in Boston, supported by the National Institute of Health, sought to confirm what I see every day in my practice: that a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) leads to a higher risk of GERD.

Just Tell Me What to Eat!

The step-by-step guide to a Mediterranean Diet

Just Tell Me What to Eat!

Dr. Tim Harlan's best tips and recipes in a six-week plan for you to learn how to follow a Mediterranean-style diet while still eating foods you know and love. Just $15.00 +s/h!

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It's clear: prevent GERD with lifestyle changes

a place setting of knife and fork alongside a dinner plate on a wooden table

Gastric reflux is a fairly common condition in which stomach acid flows upwards into the esophagus, irritating the lining of the esophagus and causing a burning sensation. Many people experience this on occasion and are able to treat it with over-the-counter medications, but as much as 30% of the adult population in the United States suffers from GERD (Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease), a condition in which mild gastric reflux occurs at least twice a week, or moderate to severe reflux occurs at least once per week.

In addition to being uncomfortable or downright painful, GERD can cause chronic coughs, laryngitis, contribute to or worsen asthma, disrupt sleep, and even cause sores in the esophagus.

This website includes a section on managing GERD, which includes the most common dietary and lifestyle modifications that physicians recommend to help reduce or prevent symptoms. These include not smoking; maintaining a clinically normal Body Mass Index; engaging in moderate-t0-vigorous exercise for at least 30 minutes per day; consuming no more than 2 cups of coffee, tea, or soda per day; and following a "prudent" diet (with "prudent" defined as having a dietary pattern in the top 40% of the population). Up until now, however, little good evidence other than anecdote has informed these recommendations.

In a Research Letter published in JAMA Internal Medicine (doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.7238), Harvard researchers analyzed data gathered from The Nurses' Health Study II, an ongoing prospective study of over 116,000 adult female nurses that began recruitment in 1989. The participants respond to detailed dietary, health, and demographic questionnaires every 4 years.

The authors began their analysis with the surveys returned in 2007, excluding those women who reported having GERD symptoms once per week or more as well as those with cancer or who reported using common prescription GERD medications. Using their survey responses, the authors could identify those women who practiced any or all of the 5 lifestyle factors, then correlate those factors with those participants who reported developing GERD between 2007 and 2017, when the analysis ended.

First the authors assessed the risk of GERD relative to each antireflux lifestyle factors individually, finding that simply not smoking reduced the risk of GERD symptoms by 6% while maintaining a clinically normal BMI alone reduced that risk by 31%.

Those who reported all 5 lifestyle factors were 53% less likely to experience GERD symptoms. The authors estimated that 37% of all GERD symptoms experienced on a weekly basis could be avoided by following all 5 lifestyle factors.

What this means for you

While this is a prospective study, which means it can't really prove causation, it is a good indication that the 5 lifestyle factors may help prevent GERD.

The drawback, of course, is that this correlation may only be that - the authors defined the 5 lifestyle factors before doing their analysis. What if there are other factors that weren't identified? Nevertheless, if you're experiencing symptoms of acid reflux more than once per week, make sure your physician is aware of it - and work on those lifestyle factors of not smoking, maintaining a clinically normal weight, avoiding more than 2 cups of coffee, tea, or soda per day, getting 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day, and maintaining a healthy diet. Here are our GERD-friendly recipes.

First posted: January 6, 2021