Markian Hawryluk
The Bulletin

People with a form of acid reflux affecting the airways achieved just as much symptom relief by changing their diet as they did with acid-reducing medications, according to a recent study by researchers from New York Medical College.

By the numbers — Researchers compared two groups of patients with laryngopharyngeal reflux. Known as atypical or silent reflux, it affects mainly the larynx or the back of the throat, and is less likely to cause heartburn than gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.

The first group included 85 patients treated with proton pump inhibitors from 2010 to 2012. The second group included 99 patients who were asked to follow a plant-based Mediterranean-style diet and drink less acidic water. Both groups were asked to fill out a questionnaire that rated the severity of their symptoms after six weeks of treatment. Some 54 percent of those in the medication groups had a six-point reduction in their score, compared to 63 percent of those making dietary changes.

Bottom line — Dietary studies are often difficult to interpret because researchers can rarely control for all the factors.

Moreover, in this study patients were not randomly assigned to one group or the other, so there may have been differences between the two groups that affected the results. Still, the results of the study suggest that patients who want to avoid medications could try a dietary approach instead.

The approach may also benefit patients with GERD, although that was not tested in this particular story.

Those in the dietary change group ate a diet consisting mainly of fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts, eating meat and dairy only two to three times a week. Subjects were also advised to avoid coffee, tea, chocolate, soda, greasy and fried food, spicy foods, fatty foods and alcohol, and were given alkaline water, which is less acidic than tap water.

The study was published in the medical journal JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery.

— Markian Hawryluk, The Bulletin