Emergency Room Wait Times
Home > Healthy Living > Health Library > GERD: Controlling Heartburn by Changing Your Habits
Symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can be painful and, if allowed to continue, can lead to complications including esophagitis. Esophagitis is irritation or inflammation of the esophagus.
You can make changes to your lifestyle to help relieve your symptoms of GERD. Here are some things to try:
There are many changes you can make to your lifestyle that can help to relieve or reduce symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). These are some suggestions.
If you smoke or chew tobacco, stop. The nicotine from tobacco relaxes the valve between the esophagus and stomach (lower esophageal sphincter). This can allow stomach acid and juices, the chemicals that break down food in the stomach, to back up (reflux) into the esophagus, which causes heartburn.
Because the nicotine in tobacco is addicting, stopping the use of tobacco is more difficult than simply changing a habit. Those who successfully quit using tobacco usually use a combination of strategies that may include:
Using more than one of these strategies greatly improves your chances of successfully quitting. Quitting tobacco use may require several attempts.
For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
Developing healthier eating habits, losing weight if necessary, and avoiding foods that increase symptoms of GERD may make heartburn less likely to occur. Take your spouse or partner along with you when you go to your doctor to discuss diet habits. It will be easier to make changes in your diet if your family understands what you need to do and why.
Changes you may want to make include avoiding chocolate, peppermint, and alcohol. These can all make GERD worse by relaxing the valve between the esophagus and the stomach. It also may be a good idea to eat smaller, more frequent meals.
If you are overweight, lose weight. Being overweight puts additional pressure on your stomach and increases the likelihood of heartburn occurring. Losing just 5 to 10 pounds can help.
Certain foods can be associated with reflux. Though they will not cause GERD, eating these foods can make the symptoms worse, and avoiding them can help reduce heartburn. These include citrus fruits, mint (such as peppermint and spearmint), fatty and fried foods, garlic and onions, spicy foods, and tomato-based foods like spaghetti sauce and pizza. Some people notice that their symptoms get worse after drinking coffee, tea, soda, or anything with caffeine. If you notice that your symptoms are worse after eating a specific food, you may want to stop eating it and see if your symptoms get better.
Putting pressure on your stomach may push stomach juices into your esophagus, causing heartburn. Some ways to reduce heartburn include the following:
Raising the head of your bed 6 in. (15 cm) to 8 in. (20 cm) will help keep stomach acid from flowing into your esophagus when you are sleeping. You can do this by putting blocks underneath your bed frame or by placing a foam wedge under the head of your mattress. Using extra pillows will not work.
Lying down soon after eating will also increase the chance of getting heartburn. After you eat, wait 2 to 3 hours before you lie down. Late-night snacks aren't a good idea.
Current as ofMarch 27, 2018
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family MedicineArvydas D. Vanagunas, MD, FACP, FACG - Gastroenterology
Current as of:
March 27, 2018
Medical Review:Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Arvydas D. Vanagunas, MD, FACP, FACG - Gastroenterology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2018 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this website, and its associated websites, is provided as a benefit to the local community, and the Internet community in general; it does not constitute medical advice. We try to provide quality information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this website and its associated sites. As medical advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each patient and healthcare is constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of a competent physician. Furthermore, in providing this service, Adventist HealthCare does not condone or support all of the content covered in this site. As an Adventist health care organization, Adventist HealthCare acts in accordance with the ethical and religious directives for Adventist health care services.
Find an Adventist HealthCare affiliated doctor by calling our FREE physician referral service at 800-642-0101 or by searching our online physician directory.
Set Your Location
Setting your location helps us to show you nearby providers and locations based on your healthcare needs.