Harvard researchers: Pill-free approaches help control heartburn

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Published: April, 2021

Living a healthy lifestyle may be one of the best things you can do to tame the heartburn of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), suggests a research letter published online Jan. 4, 2021, by JAMA Internal Medicine. Harvard researchers analyzed the self-reported health information of about 43,000 middle-aged women who were followed for 10 years. Women who adhered to five healthy lifestyle factors, regardless of whether they took heartburn medication, appeared to prevent nearly 40% of their GERD symptoms each week. The pill-free approaches included maintaining a healthy body weight (a body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9); not smoking; getting 30 minutes daily of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity; limiting coffee, tea, or soda to no more than 2 cups per day; and eating a healthy diet. "Each one of these factors may prevent the inappropriate relaxation of the sphincter muscle between the stomach and the esophagus, helping to keep acid from refluxing up and causing heartburn. For example, carrying extra weight around the waist can push on the stomach, forcing stomach acid up into the esophagus," says Dr. Raaj S. Mehta, lead author of the study and a gastroenterology fellow at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

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