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Causes of Acid Reflux Disease: Alcohol Is Out, Salt Is In

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Updated May 01, 2014

A new study suggests that drinking alcohol, coffee and tea may not cause acid reflux disease as once thought. That is surprising enough, but even more unexpected was the findings that table salt may increase a person's risk of developing acid reflux by 70.

In a recent study, researchers in Sweden had set out to identify the lifestyle factors that can cause acid reflux, and they came to some surprising conclusions. While smoking, as expected, strongly increases the risk for developing acid reflux disease, drinking alcohol had little impact. The same was found true with coffee and tea.

Does this mean that if you suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD--commonly referred to as acid reflux disease) you can drink alcohol, coffee, and tea with no reflux problems? No. While this study shows alcohol, coffee, and tea don't appear to cause acid reflux disease, they can still make reflux symptoms worse in those diagnosed with the disease.

As stated by Magnus Nilsson, MD, of Stockholm's Karolinska Hospital: "We know that drinking alcohol causes symptoms to occur in people who already have acid reflux disease, so we were quite surprised to find that long-term use did not increase the risk of developing it."

For those individuals who don't have GERD, alcohol consumption doesn't increase your risk of developing GERD. There are other factors, however, that will increase your risk of developing acid reflux disease.

It has been known for quite some time that smoking increases the risk of developing acid reflux disease, and worsens symptoms in those who suffer from it. What wasn't widely known was that people who had smoked every day for more than 20 years are 70 more likely to have acid reflux than non-smokers.

What hasn't been known, and what researchers found in the above mentioned study, is that people who ate large amounts of salt had a similar increase in risk for developing acid reflux disease as smokers do. Table salt hasn't been previously implicated as a trigger for acid reflux, but this study found that there was a 70 increased risk of developing acid reflux among those who always used extra table salt daily compared with those who did not.

Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa, a gastroenterologist at New York University Medical Center, offers one possible for salt being a cause for acid reflux. She said it's possible that the people who are adding a lot of salt to their food may also be eating greasier foods, foods which may increase their risk of heartburn.

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Swedish Acid Reflux Study:

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