Treatment for GERD

If you have GERD, be careful about what you eat and drink. Don’t have too much of the following:

  • Fried and fatty foods
  • Peppermint
  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Citrus fruit and juices
  • Tomato products
  • Drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, soda, and energy drinks

You should also:

  • Eat smaller portions
  • Not overeat
  • Quit smoking
  • Not drink too much alcohol
  • Wait a few hours after eating before you lie down or go to bed
  • Lose weight if needed
  • Raise the head of your bed 6 inches by putting bricks or cinderblocks or bedrisers under the bed legs under the head of the bed

Be sure to check any medicines you are taking. Some may cause problems with the lining of your stomach or esophagus. You may also want to talk to your healthcare provider about:

  • Taking medicines to reduce your stomach acid (antacids)
  • Taking medicines called H2-blockers and proton pump inhibitors. Taking these medicines before eating may stop heartburn from happening.
  • Taking medicines that help to empty food from your stomach (promotility medicines). You will need a prescription for these. However, these medicines are rarely used to treat reflux disease unless there are other problems, too.
  • Having surgery called fundoplication. This is sometimes done to help keep the esophagus in the right place and to stop the backward flow of fluid (reflux).

What are the Complications of GERD?

If GERD is not treated, it can lead to other health problems. These may include:

  • Esophagitis. This is an irritation of the esophagus caused by the acid in your stomach contents.
  • Narrowing of the esophagus, also called strictures. This can make it hard to swallow.
  • Breathing problems. This happens when stomach contents from your esophagus go into your lungs.
  • Barrett’s esophagus. This affects the lining of your esophagus. In some cases it can lead to esophageal cancer.

What can I do to prevent GERD?

Some of the same diet and lifestyle changes that are used to treat GERD can also help to stop it from happening.

Living with GERD

Your healthcare provider will give you advice on how to manage your GERD symptoms. In most cases you will need to make some diet and lifestyle changes so that GERD pain won’t get in the way of your normal activities.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Call your healthcare provider if your GERD symptoms don’t improve with treatment or they get worse. Also call if you have new symptoms.

Key points

  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a digestive disorder. It is caused by gastric acid flowing from your stomach back up into your food pipe (esophagus).
  • Heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD.
  • Some lifestyle issues that may cause GERD include being overweight, overeating, having caffeine and alcohol, and eating chocolate and spicy foods.
  • There are several tests that can be done to see if you have GERD.
  • If it is not treated, GERD can lead to other health problems.
  • Making diet and lifestyle changes can help reduce GERD symptoms.
  • Some medicines may also help reduce symptoms.

Next Steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:

  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.