Lifestyle Modification for Reflux Disease

In all cases, treatment for acid reflux begins with suggestions for lifestyle modifications that will reduce symptom frequency and severity.

The most frequently suggested lifestyle changes are:

Reduce or eliminate alcohol and tobacco. Both alcohol and tobacco decrease the pressure the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) places on the stomach to keep its contents in, and tobacco also increases stomach acidity and irritates the esophagus.

Avoid dietary triggers. Many food products affect or relax the LES, leading to reflux when you eat them. Examples are chocolate, caffeine, tomato, and citrus juices.

Review your medications with your doctor. Some medications can alter how tight the LES closes or may irritate your esophagus, making heartburn symptoms feel worse.

Stay upright for at least 2 hours after eating. Lying down with a full stomach often triggers GERD symptoms by increasing pressure on the LES.

Try propping the head of your bed up about 6 inches. You can add blocks under the front legs of the bed or use a large, wedge-shaped pillow.

Try chewing gum. Chewing stimulates saliva, which neutralizes stomach acid.

Lose weight. Obesity is often associated with GERD. Weight loss can decrease the pressure your abdomen puts on the LES.

Wear loose clothing. Tight pants, belts, or sashes increase pressure on the LES and can force stomach content back into the esophagus.