5 Things You Can Do To Help Prevent GERD

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Over the past few years, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) has become a focus among health professionals as a result of its increased prevalence and currently affects 20% of Americans. This impact of GERD has become more serious as untreated cases can lead to serious medical complications. New data analysis has identified five simple changes you can make to prevent you from becoming a statistic.  

The new cohort study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, identified certain lifestyle factors that can help reduce the risk of GERD. Previous research has linked lifestyle choice to acid reflux, but there was a gap in supporting evidence, which was addressed by this new analysis. The results discovered can help reduce the risk of developing GERD. 

GERD is a gastrointestinal condition in which the contents of the stomach reflux back into the esophagus. As this acidic reflux touches the sensitive tissues of the esophagus, a burning sensation in the chest is commonly felt, known as heartburn. Occasional heartburn can happen when eating too much or too quickly, but when it becomes frequent and disrupts quality of life, you have GERD. 

As a result of its frequency, medications were developed to help address the symptoms of GERD. Proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) are the most commonly prescribed treatment for GERD, but there are concerns about the long-term use of these drugs. This concern has prompted researchers to identify alternative means of reducing and treating GERD.

Lifestyle interventions have been linked to better digestion, but there has been a lack of evidence supporting the effectiveness of these interventions in relation to GERD. Analysis of data collected from the Nurses’ Health Study II identified a group of 42,955 women, between the ages of 42 and 62, without GERD. After following them for ten years, 9,291 were diagnosed with GERD. 

Analysis of the health data collected identified five lifestyle factors that predicted which participants were less likely to develop GERD:

♦ Having a BMI between 18.5 and 25 (excess weight increases pressure on the stomach, pushing stomach contents up through the esophagus).

♦ Never smoking (tobacco relaxes the esophageal sphincter, allowing acids to flow back through the esophagus).

♦ Getting at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily (stimulates digestion and can help with weight maintenance).

♦ Not having more than 2 cups of coffee, tea, or soda daily (caffeine also relaxes the esophageal sphincter). 

♦ Following a healthy diet with a high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and legumes (processed and fatty foods can increase acid reflux). 

Each of these lifestyle factors were associated with a lower risk of developing GERD. Individuals who met all five factors were half as likely to develop GERD than those who did not meet any of the factors. Identification of these lifestyle factors can help reduce the risk of GERD and avoid potential dangers of long-term PPI use. 

Medications are effective in addressing symptoms, but making lifestyle changes can help prevent GERD from developing in the first place. By making these five simple changes in your daily routine, you can promote proper digestion, which naturally reduces the risk of GERD and supports healthy and happy living. 

Journal Reference: Mehta RS, Nguyen LH, Ma W, Staller K, Song M, Chan AT. Association of Diet and Lifestyle With the Risk of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Symptoms in US Women. JAMA Intern Med. 2021 Apr 1;181(4):552-554.