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  • Writer's pictureDr. Thomas Bailey, MD


Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is very common, affecting up to 20% of people.  The most common symptoms associated with GERD are heartburn, regurgitation of food contents from the stomach into the mouth, and chest pain.



There are many factors that may make you more likely to have GERD.  These include the following:


·       Being overweight

·       Cigarette smoking

·       Eating habits (eating large meals, eating late night, lying flat shortly after eating)

·       Certain foods (fatty foods, chocolate, citrus foods/juices, spicy foods, caffeine)

·       Medications (anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen, certain blood pressure pills, opiate pain medications)

·       Pregnancy

·       Wearing tight fitting clothing



While there are many over the counter and prescription medications for treatment of GERD, there are ways to reduce heartburn by changing your lifestyle.  If you are suffering from frequent heartburn and other GERD symptoms, try the following:


·       Modifying your diet and exercising to lose weight.

·       Stop smoking.

·       Avoid late night meals and do not lay down for 2-3 hours after eating.

·       Elevating the head of your bed with extra pillows, a pillow wedge, or try stacking wood blocks under the legs at the head of the bed (using thick magazines laying around the house also works!).  The goal is to try to angle the head of the bed about 30-45 degrees.

·       Eat vegetables, lean meats and healthy fats, while avoiding foods that will likely trigger your heartburn such as spicy foods, chocolate and caffeine.

·       If you need to take anti-inflammatory medications for headache, pain, etc. make sure you take them with food.



With regards to diet, those that incorporate plenty of high fiber foods (whole grains such as oatmeal, root vegetables such as carrots, and green vegetables such as asparagus) may be beneficial.  Eating less acidic and more alkaline foods such as bananas, melons, cauliflower, and nuts may also help.  Foods that have a high water content, such as lettuce, watermelon, and celery may dilute stomach acid and reduce heartburn.  Low-fat/no-fat milk and yogurt can buffer stomach acid, and using ginger tea has been useful in relieving digestive irritation.


There are some reports of people getting relief by drinking apple cider vinegar, but at full concentration it is a strong acid which may in fact inflame the esophagus.  Talk to your doctor prior to using it if you are interested in this method to help with GERD.



It is important to note that if you continue to have GERD despite trying these methods above, or if your GERD is also associated with difficulty swallowing, weight loss, coughing up/vomiting blood, or if there is blood in your bowel movement, consult your doctor as soon as possible.  These additional signs and symptoms may be an indicator of more serious problems.

a woman clutching her chest due to heartburn

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