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Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) FAQs (cont.)

What lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, etc.) reduce GERD symptoms significantly?

  • Don't eat within 3 hours of bedtime. This allows your stomach to empty and acid production to decrease. If you don't eat, your body isn't making acid to digest the food.
  • Similarly, don't lie down right after eating at any time of day.
  • Elevate the head of your bed 6 by inches with blocks, bricks, or books. Gravity helps prevent reflux. Just using more pillows won't help, because that actually increases the pressure on your stomach.
  • Don't eat large meals, especially before bedtime. Eating a lot of food at one time increases the amount of acid needed to digest it. Eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day.
  • Avoid fatty or greasy foods, chocolate, caffeine, mints or mint-flavored foods, spicy foods, citrus, and tomatoes. These foods can irritate the already damaged lining of the esophagus.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol without eating food, and definitely avoid drinking alcohol before bed. Alcohol increases the likelihood of acid backing  up from your stomach.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking weakens the lower esophageal sphincter and increases reflux.
  • Lose excess weight. Overweight and obese people are much more likely to have bothersome reflux than people of healthy weight.
  • Stand upright or sit up straight, maintain good posture. This helps food and acid pass through the stomach instead of backing up into the esophagus.
  • Talk to your health-care professional if you take over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). These can aggravate reflux in some people.

Some of these changes are difficult for many people to make. Talk to your health-care professional if you need some tips on losing weight or quitting smoking. Knowing that your symptoms will get better may keep you motivated.

Will these lifestyle changes stop the symptoms?

They may. If they don't, adding a nonprescription antacid or acid blocker can be helpful.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/19/2015

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease »

Gastroesophageal reflux is a normal physiological phenomenon experienced intermittently by most people, particularly after a meal.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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