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
Quitting tobacco use
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:
- Professional counseling, either by telephone
or in person.
- The use of medicines, to help overcome the addiction
- Participation in a proven smoking cessation
- Having a support group of peers who are also quitting or who do
Using more than one of these strategies greatly improves
your chances of successfully quitting. Quitting tobacco use may require several
For more information, see the topic
Changing your eating habits
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
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
Reducing pressure on your stomach
on your stomach may push stomach juices into your esophagus, causing heartburn.
Some ways to reduce heartburn include the following:
- After you eat, wait 2 to 3 hours before you
lie down. Late-night snacks aren't a good idea. When you are lying down, the
contents of your stomach can push against the valve between the esophagus and
stomach (lower esophageal sphincter). Sitting up allows gravity to help food
and stomach juices from the esophagus drain back into your stomach.
- Avoid tight clothing over your stomach. Tight belts,
waistbands, or panty hose may push against your stomach and make your heartburn
- Use care when lifting and bending. Bending over tends to
increase the amount of stomach acid that can get into your esophagus. When
lifting, bend your knees to avoid bending over at the waist.
Improving sleep position and habits
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.
Test Your Knowledge
Being overweight can make GERD symptoms
Quitting smoking is good for me, but it will not
affect symptoms of GERD.
Continue to Where to go from here
Return to GERD: Controlling Heartburn by Changing Your Habits