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Acid reflux? Try going vegetarian.

"A mostly vegetarian diet may provide relief similar to widely used medications for people with acid reflux, a new study suggests," reported a HealthDay article in the Chicago Tribune in September.

The study looked at people with laryngopharyngeal reflux. (1)

"It's a condition where stomach acids habitually back up into the throat, and it's distinct from the much better-known gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)--or what most people call heartburn," explained the Tribune.

Instead of heartburn, patients "have symptoms like hoarseness, chronic sore throat, persistent coughing, excessive throat clearing and a feeling of a lump in the throat."

Did the researchers randomly assign reflux patients to either a mostly vegetarian diet or to the PPIs (proton-pump inhibitors) that are widely used to treat GERD? (1) Not exactly.

Instead, they simply looked back at the medical records of 184 patients treated by the lead author, otolaryngologist Craig Zalvan. He had prescribed PPIs to roughly half of those patients (between 2010 and 2012), and a mostly vegan diet--with only two or three servings of meat or dairy per week--to the other half (between 2013 and 2015).

"After six weeks, 63 percent of patients on the diet were showing at least a 6-point drop on a scale called the reflux symptom index," reported the Tribune. "That compared with 54 percent of PPI patients."

The Tribune neglected to mention that the difference wasn't statistically significant.

And who knows what to make of the results? Would patients say they felt better with any diet recommended by their doc?

Bottom Line: If you have laryngopharyngeal reflux, it can't hurt to try a mostly vegetarian diet, but this study doesn't offer much evidence.

(1) JAMA Otolaryngol. Head Neck Surg. 143:1023, 2017.

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Author:Liebman, Bonnie
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Article Type:Brief article
Date:Mar 1, 2018
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