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Water Beds Promote Heartburn, Doctor Says

April 17, 1987

CHICAGO (AP) _ People who lie on water beds to relieve their aching backs may arise with heartburn, says a doctor who specializes in treating digestive diseases.

The posture of a person in a water bed can cause stomach acid to back up into the esophagus, irritating it and causing heartburn, says Dr. Martin S. Kleinman of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York.

″Gravity is not on your side any more,″ Kleinman said in a telephone interview Thursday.

He and medical student George B. Plain compared data on 50 patients with inflammation of the esophagus with data on 49 patients with no such inflammation.

Of the 50 with inflammation, nine used water beds, while only two among the 49 with healthy esophagi used water beds, a statistically significant difference, Kleinman and Plain wrote in a letter in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

Ray Delrich, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Waterbed Manufacturers Association, said ″we will certainly have our medical advisory committee review the study immediately.″

″We must point out,″ he said, ″the many and various medical conditions that water beds have been shown to relieve, including backache, bedsores, severe burns, spinal injury, infant apnea (breathing stoppage), among others, and the fact that water beds are used in many hospitals.″

Dr. Anthony N. Silvetti, co-director of the Wound Healing Research Center at the University of Chicago, said he has done extensive work with water beds and water mattresses and has never heard of their leading to heartburn.

Kleinman said proof of a link would require a formal study that included measuring acid in test subjects’ esophagi during sleep.

However, ″I think this is a very convincing association and is why many people with esophagitis don’t get better,″ he said.

Patients with the condition usually respond well to medication, but ″very often the medication doesn’t work until they get rid of their water beds.″

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