Narmeen Al Talalwah, Sue Woodward
British Journal of Nursing, Vol. 22, Iss. 3, 14 Feb 2013, pp 140 - 146
Introduction: Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is defined as an abnormal reflux of the stomach contents into the oesophagus, which provokes symptoms and impairs the quality of life. GORD has a high prevalence and incurs costs to the healthcare system. This is the first paper in a series of three exploring the conservative, medical and surgical treatment of GORD. This first paper presents a review of the effect of smoking and alcohol on reflux symptoms and the impact of smoking and alcohol reduction on symptoms of GORD. Methods: A search for English language studies on adults was conducted using three databases, MEDLINE, Embase and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL). Eleven relevant studies were included in the review. Findings: The effect of alcohol on the stimulation of reflux has been debated over the years in different studies. Some studies state that alcohol consumption induces reflux and moderate amounts exacerbate nocturnal gastro-oesophageal heartburn reflux. However, other studies have found no association between alcohol consumption and reflux. Most reflux occurs during smoking because nicotine causes the lower oesophageal sphincter to relax, which increases the risk of reflux. Similarly, the number of cigarettes smoked is associated with the risk of reflux. Conclusions: Nurses need to be aware of the effect of smoking and alcohol on reflux to provide evidence-based advice to empower patients to change their lifestyle, which results in increased therapeutic compliance and a better clinical status. There is no evidence that reducing alcohol consumption decreases symptoms and only limited evidence on the effectiveness of smoking cessation. Further research into the effectiveness of these lifestyle modifications is therefore required.