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A new study found that people with a type of reflux disorder in which stomach acid is thought to rise all the way to the voice box (larynx) and throat may be improved by a low-acid diet.
Unlike its more commonly known cousin gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach acid and partially digested food rise into the lower esophagus causing heartburn and other symptoms, people with laryngopharyngeal reflux instead experience a burning sensation and an acrid taste in the back of their throat. They may also have a chronic sore throat, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, and chronic cough, and may develop asthma and bronchitis. Most people with this type of reflux feel better when they take medications to reduce stomach acid production, but some people don’t.
The current study, published in the Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology, included 20 people with laryngopharyngeal reflux who did not improve with acid-blocking medications. They were instructed to eat from a prescribed list of low-acid foods for two weeks. The following foods were included on the low-acid diet:
At the end of two weeks, 19 people had fewer laryngopharyngeal reflux symptoms, and three of them had complete remission of symptoms. Examinations of the throat and larynx showed that tissue damage had improved in many of the people who felt better on the diet. Only one person was worse at the end of the trial.
“A strict low-acid diet appears to be beneficial for patients with pH-documented [laryngopharyngeal reflux],” said Dr. Jamie A. Koufman, the study’s author. “In this study, the diet was shown to improve both the symptoms and the laryngeal findings of patients with [medication-resistant laryngopharyngeal reflux].”
Because this was a preliminary study, the findings suggest, but don’t prove, that a low-acid diet can reduce symptoms and prevent the long-term consequences of laryngopharyngeal reflux. Based on this evidence, people with laryngopharyngeal reflux who are otherwise healthy can experiment safely with a low-acid diet for two to four weeks, though you should consult a professional if you are considering limiting fruits from your diet for a longer period. The most highly acidic foods should be strictly avoided, including:
(Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol 2011;120:281–7)