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Dig Dis. 2014;32(1-2):149-51. doi: 10.1159/000357181. Epub 2014 Feb 28.

Management of gastroesophageal reflux disease: lifestyle modification and alternative approaches.

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Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Internal Medicine, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria.


The first step in the management of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is lifestyle modification, with dietary recommendations such as increasing fiber intake and lowering dietary fat. While there is some physiological evidence that various foods as well as alcohol and tobacco affect the pressure of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), targeted interventions have not shown any benefit in clinical trials. The general recommendation is for the patient to avoid foods and beverages that in his or her experience trigger GERD symptoms. The only measures that have been shown with some degree of scientific evidence to be beneficial are weight loss on the part of obese patients and elevation of the head of the bed. We, in contrast, developed a training program that induces a change from thoracic to abdominal breathing. We hypothesized that this change in breathing actively trains the diaphragm, and so potentially strengthens the LES. In a randomized trial using breathing exercises as the intervention, we found an improvement in gastroesophageal reflux symptoms, assessed by quality of life, pH-metry and proton pump inhibitor use. Most patients would prefer to take proton pump inhibitors than to do exercises, but at least for a subgroup of highly motivated patients who would prefer an alternative to medication, structured physical exercises could offer new help with their GERD.

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