Gastroesophageal reflux can also be counteracted with lifestyle. In particular, there are five factors, all modifiable, which can help control reflux or, in some cases, even let you give up drugs completely. This conclusion was reached by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. The results were published in the prestigious JAMA journal a few days ago (Mehta et al, JAMA, 2021).
The researchers drew on data collected in the Nurses' Health Study II analyzing the habits, lifestyles and health of 43,000 women aged 42 to 62 over a period from 2005 to 2017. Twice the year the participants in the study were asked to fill in a questionnaire specifying the body mass index, possible use of medicines, whether or not there was a habit of smoking, of practicing physical activity, any presence of diabetes and symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux. In this way, the scientists were able to isolate five factors that could reduce the risk of developing reflux. These factors are a normal body weight, no smoking, moderate physical activity for at least thirty minutes a day, drinking no more than two cups of tea, coffee or soda a day, and eating a balanced diet. Following all of these guidelines can lead to a 37% reduction in reflux-related symptoms. People who were already using medications to control their reflux also noticed a significant improvement following these guidelines and, in general, the more people followed these guidelines, the more their reflux symptoms were reduced. As indicated by the same authors of the research, this is the first study that has been able to demonstrate that physical activity is effective in controlling the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux. This beneficial effect is probably due to the increased motility of the digestive tract and the faster return to a normal pH, thus counteracting stomach acid.