Lifestyle changes may help manage the symptoms of GERD. Not all changes will work for everyone with GERD. Keep a journal of foods, drinks, or other activities that cause discomfort. It can help determine which lifestyle changes may be most helpful.
Smoking cigarettes affects the nerve and blood supply. This could make it difficult for the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to work properly. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about how you can successfully quit. Quitting may help decrease GERD and GERD symptoms.
Excess abdominal weight can increase the pressure on the stomach which makes it difficult for the LES to work properly. Obesity also increases the risk of a hiatal hernia which can cause GERD. If you are overweight, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian about how to lose weight safely. If you are in a healthy range, maintain your weight to help control GERD symptoms.
Overeating can overwhelm the stomach and make it difficult for LES to close properly. To avoid overfilling the stomach:
Be aware of foods that exacerbate GERD symptoms. The exact foods can vary from person to person but the most common food triggers are:
Drinks that may trigger symptoms include:
The stomach needs time to breakdown food and move it in the right direction. To prevent irritating GERD symptoms:
Lying down makes it easier for content to flow from your stomach into the esophagus. Elevating your head just a bit uses gravitiy to help keep stomach contents in place. Place 4-6 inch blocks under the legs at the head of the bed to keep your upper body slightly elevated.
Wearing clothing or belts that are too tight can increase the reflux of stomach acid by increasing abdominal pressure. This may be more of a problem for those who have excess weight around the midsection.
Eating, diet, and nutrition for gastroesophageal reflux (GER) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/ger-and-gerd-in-adults/Pages/eating-diet-nutrition.aspx. Accessed February 27, 2015.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 19, 2015. Accessed February 27, 2015.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The Merck Manual Professional Edition. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal_disorders/esophageal_and_swallowing_disorders/gastroesophageal_reflux_disease_gerd.html. Updated May 2014. Accessed February 27, 2015.
Treatment for gastroesophageal reflux (GER) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/ger-and-gerd-in-adults/Pages/treatment.aspx. Accessed February 27, 2015.
Katz PO, Gerson LB, et al. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Am J Gastroenterol. 2013;108(3):302-328.
Understanding heartburn and reflux disease. American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at: http://www.gastro.org/patient-center/digestive-conditions/heartburn-gerd. Accessed February 27, 2015.
Last reviewed March 2014 by Daus Mahnke, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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