Lifestyle Changes to Manage Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)/Heartburn
Lifestyle changes can control the symptoms of GERD and may help prevent possible complications caused by GERD symptoms.
General Guidelines for Managing GERD/Heartburn
Avoid Specific Eating and Drinking Habits
Habits to avoid include:
- Overeating (habitually eating large meals)
- Ingesting large amounts of fluid with meals
- Eating too fast
Drinking specific beverages, including:
- Caffeinated drinks
- Coffee with or without caffeine
- Carbonated drinks
Eating specific foods, including:
- High-fat foods
- Spicy foods
- Citrus fruits
- Tomato products
Smoking cigarettes weakens the lower esophageal sphincter. Stopping smoking can help reduce GERD symptoms.
After Eating, Wait to Lie Down
After eating meals, wait at least 2-3 hours before lying down. This may lessen reflux by giving the stomach time to empty.
After Eating, Wait to Exercise
Exercising immediately after eating (especially jogging or strenuous exercise) can cause stomach acid to reflux into the esophagus. Wait at least 2-3 hours after eating to exercise.
Don’t Wear Tight Clothes or Belts
Wearing clothing or belts that are too tight can increase the reflux of stomach acid by increasing abdominal pressure. For the same reason, avoid bending over or straining, especially soon after meals.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
If you are overweight, losing weight and bringing your weight within the healthy range can help reduce the symptoms of GERD.
Elevate Your Head When Sleeping
Elevate the head of your bed by placing 4-6 inch blocks under the legs at the head of the bed. This reduces heartburn by allowing gravity to minimize reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus.
Chew Sugarless Gum for About 30 Minutes After a Meal
Chewing sugarless gum can help treat GERD by increasing saliva flow. Saliva is alkaline, which can help neutralize stomach acids in the esophagus. Make sure the gum is sugarless; gum with sugar can promote tooth decay.
When to Contact Your Healthcare Provider
Contact your healthcare provider if new symptoms develop or old symptoms persist, worsen, or recur despite changing your lifestyle habits.
American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at: http://www.gastro.org/ . Accessed March 6, 2006.
The Merck Manual of Medical Information . 17th ed. Simon and Schuster, Inc.; 2000.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/ . Accessed March 7, 2006.
The Society of Thoracic Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.ctsnet.org/ . Accessed March 7, 2006.
Last reviewed November 2008 by
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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