Treating Acid Reflux: Does a Vegetarian Diet Help?

Up until now, a diet-based approach for acid reflux management has generally been limited to avoidance of certain dietary triggers like coffee, alcohol, and spicy foods. A new review explores the possibility for a vegetarian GERD diet or LPR diet that effectively treats the condition. The review, published in JAMA Otolaryngology, covered the benefits of a vegetarian LPR diet (rather than a vegetarian GERD diet) as compared to conventional prescription treatments.

The review of two separate studies conducted between 2010 and 2015 found that a plant-based acid reflux diet was equally as effective at reducing symptoms of laryngopharyngeal reflux, or LPR, as treatment with prescription or over-the-counter proton pump inhibitors — specifically, esomeprazole or dexlansoprazole.

The first study included in the review only treated patients through proton pump inhibitors. The other study only treated patients through a protocol modeled after a Mediterranean diet rich in a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, and supplemented with plenty of alkaline water (pH >8.0). The diet was not strictly plant-based, but it only allowed a small amount of dairy and only two or three 4-ounce servings of meat per week. Both studies asked participants to avoid foods known to trigger acid reflux.

After six weeks of treatment, researchers found that proton pump inhibitors significantly reduced the symptoms of acid reflux in 54 percent of its participants, while a plant-based diet was effective for almost 63 percent. On average, medication improved symptoms by 27 percent, while the diet group experienced a nearly 40 percent improvement.

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