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Make Lifestyle Changes to Ease Reflux

Man holding chest from experiencing heartburn symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux

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The heartburn symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) affect about one-third of Americans, many turning to medications. Based on evidence from 116,000 women in a long-running Nurses’ Health Study, Harvard University researchers have found that GERD symptoms can be reduced by up to 37 percent by adopting five lifestyle strategies: 30 minutes of moderate to heavy exercise per day; not smoking; maintaining a normal weight; limiting acidic beverages like coffee and tea to two cups per day; and following a “prudent diet” with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fish and poultry. The more faithfully the guidelines were followed, the lower the risk of symptoms. Benefits were also realized for women using treatments like proton pump inhibitors and H2 receptor antagonists. According to senior author Andrew T. Chan, M.D., MPH, this study was among the first to link physical activity to the control of GERD. He notes, “Being physically active may help with the clearance of stomach acid which causes heartburn symptoms.” 

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