Four years ago, I weighed 40 pounds more than I do now. I had reflux so bad that I was in constant pain and throwing up. I took Prilosec almost daily for years. One day I simply got sick of being sick. I decided that I would get better. I went to a Naturopathic Physician, I started hiking every day, I stopped eating gluten and sugary desserts and I focused on eating the Mediterranean Diet. Within a few days, the nausea went away, the pain in my esophagus began to fade, I started to lose weight and I only occasionally needed Prilosec. Now, I don’t even think of taking any of these reflux medications. On occasion, if I don’t eat well and get some heartburn, I take a teaspoon of baking soda with water, but even that is rare. I still have to be careful with certain foods, but basically, I am healed. The combination of diet, exercise and supplements cured my reflux. I am a believer, because I lived it and now there is scientific proof of the role of diet with reflux.
A recent study done by the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research showed that people that ate a slightly restricted Mediterranean Diet along with drinking alkaline water had the same or better results in treating laryngopharyngeal reflux than those who took proton pump inhibitors (Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, etc.). Doctor Craig Zalvan, the lead author of the study had been treating his patients with proton pump inhibitors for years, but was interested to see if there was another solution. “Although effective in some patients, I felt medication couldn’t be the only method to treat reflux and recent studies reporting increased rates of stroke and heart attack, dementia and kidney damage from prolonged PPI use made me more certain,” said Dr. Zalvan. “I did research and saw a lot of studies using plant-based diets to treat patients for many other chronic diseases, so I decided to develop a diet regimen to treat my laryngopharyngeal reflux patients. The results we found show we are heading in the right direction to treating reflux without medication.”
So, what did this “restricted” Mediterranean Diet look like? Well, in many ways it was similar to the true Mediterranean Diet of Crete. The diet of Crete is a plant based diet, that is very low in dairy products and meat. In the “restricted” diet eaten by the study participants, they ate no meat or dairy. They also abstained from coffee, alcohol, and greasy foods. They avoided foods known to cause issues for people with reflux. Very similar to what I did. Plus they were eating all the anti-inflammatory foods of the Mediterranean.
And what were the side effects of eating the Mediterranean Diet? Some weight loss, decreased cholesterol and blood pressures and a reduction in reflux similar or better than protein pump inhibitors. In other words, the diet not only treated their reflux, but the rest of their bodies were healing as well.
For more information on what the true Mediterranean Diet of Crete looks like, here is our article on “Two Weeks of Eating on the Greek Island of Crete.”
Also, our book “Foods of Crete: Traditional Recipes of the Healthiest People in the World”, gives you 110 traditional recipes, many of which I used to help heal my reflux.