Following a plant-based Mediterranean diet with alkaline water is as good at treating reflux symptoms as taking proton-pump inhibitor (PPI) medication, according to new research.

Researchers say that a plant-based Mediterranean diet – consisting of mostly fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts with no dairy and meats, including beef, chicken, fish, eggs and pork – provides the same medical benefits for treating laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) as PPIs.

The study, which looked back at medical records of people diagnosed with reflux disease between 2010 and 2015 in the US, was published in JAMA Otolaryngology Head Neck Surgery by researchers from Northwell Health’s The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and New York Medical College.

Researchers concluded that a plant-based diet and alkaline water should be considered in the treatment of LPR as it ‘may effectively improve symptoms’, could ‘avoid the costs and adverse effects of pharmacological intervention’ and deliver ‘additional health benefits associated with a healthy, plant-based diet’.

NHS Choices Behind the Headlines, which provides an ‘unbiased and evidence-based analysis of health stories that make the news’, concluded that the study suggests that the first port of call for people with reflux could be to try a Mediterranean diet before going on PPI medication, to avoid potential side effects.

However, it warned of limitations to the research. For example, the follow up for the small study was only six weeks, which ‘is not much time to see longer-term outcomes’ and ‘it might be that either PPIs or the Mediterranean diet have a different effect in the longer term’.