How do I manage my heartburn or GERD on a daily basis?

Reflux symptoms sometimes disappear if dietary or lifestyle excesses that cause the symptoms are reduced or eliminated. Avoiding these items may reduce your discomfort:

  • Coffee
  • Citrus drinks
  • Tomato-based products
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
  • Fatty or spicy foods
  • Eating within three hours of bedtime
  • Smoking
  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • Excess weight gain

Propping up the head of the bed at night may be helpful. Should symptoms persist, over-the-counter antacids may decrease discomfort. Antacids, however, only work for a short time and for this reason, they have a limited role in treating reflux disease. Histamine H2-receptor antagonists (cimetidine, ranitidine, famotidine and nizatidine) decrease acid production in the stomach. These medications work well for treating mild reflux symptoms and are quite safe, with few side effects. They are available over the counter at a reduced dose, or at a higher dose when given by prescription by your doctor. You should see your doctor immediately if you have symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, trouble swallowing or internal bleeding in addition to heartburn and/or acid regurgitation. Symptoms that persist after you have made simple lifestyle changes also warrant a visit to your doctor. In addition, if you use over-the-counter medications regularly to reduce symptoms such as heartburn or acid regurgitation, you should consult a physician to determine the best course of treatment for you.

In order to manage your gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and heartburn on a daily basis, you can make some lifestyle changes, such as changing your diet, altering your sleep habits and quitting smoking if you are a smoker. Try avoiding spicy, acidic and fried foods, which tend to trigger heartburn in some people. Cutting down on your consumption of alcohol and caffeinated drinks can help too. If you are overweight, consider trying to lose weight. Be sure you wait at least three hours after eating before you go to bed. Try elevating the head of your bed by about six inches with wooden blocks or using another method. If your doctor recommends it, you can also treat your GERD and heartburn symptoms with over-the-counter medications or, if your doctor thinks it's necessary, with prescription drugs.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can be managed in many different ways, depending on a patient's preference and the seriousness of the condition. Possible management methods include treatment with a variety of medications, experimental endoscopic treatment or surgery. The list of medicines is lengthy and includes over-the-counter antacids and H2 Blockers, which work well for mild GERD. A change of diet can help, too. For more severe reflux, protein pump inhibitors (PPIs) are an option. Medications can be increasingly costly, however, and may provide incomplete relief.

The good news is, most people who have heartburn can manage symptoms on their own. Lifestyle and dietary changes can be the first line of defense. These include:
  • Changing what you eat 
  • Changing when and how you eat 
  • Elevating the head of your bed to help avoid nighttime symptoms
  • Weight loss
We are in a war against heartburn, and the American diet is full of landmines that cause us to suffer. It is high in heavy, fat-laden meats, carbs and processed foods. Most notably, there is not a good balance between the bad (acid-promoting) foods that cause heartburn and the good (alkaline-promoting) foods that help to prevent heartburn. What can you do? Strive to balance your culinary equation by pursuing a more alkaline diet.

Examples of alkaline-promoting foods include:
  • Cherries
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Bananas
  • Spinach
  • Raisins
Examples of acid-promoting foods include:
  • Oats
  • Brown rice
  • Cooked salmon
  • American/cheddar cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
I cannot overemphasize that doing the simple things can go a long way to help you to overcome this problem.
  • Always take small bites of food and chew it 10 times before swallowing. 
  • Try not to drink after every bite. It causes you to swallow air and that can increase the pressure inside of the stomach and promote reflux and heartburn. 
  • Try not to eat a large meal less than three hours before going to bed. 
  • Raise the head of your bed on cinder blocks to recruit gravity to keep the acid in the stomach. 
Other measures that can be taken include wearing loose fitting clothing and undergarments, mild exercise after eating, and getting into a smoking cessation program. In spite of all your good intentions, from time to time the desired alkaline focus may be difficult to maintain. If you fall short, do not panic; just remember for every acid-promoting food, you need to ingest two alkaline-promoting foods. 
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Alcohol, coffee, pepper, acidic foods like tomatoes and OJ, and to a lesser degree, chocolate increase GERD symptoms. The best way to manage symptoms until you lose weight is to avoid meals within three hours of bedtime and to put blocks under the head posts of your bed so you sleep with a slight tilt (pillows usually don't work since your head will typically roll off the pillow faster than a kid on a sliding board).

YOU: On A Diet Revised Edition: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management

More About this Book

YOU: On A Diet Revised Edition: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management

For the first time in our history, scientists are uncovering astounding medical evidence about dieting -- and why so many of us struggle with our weight and the size of our waists. Now researchers are unraveling biological secrets about such things as why you crave chocolate or gorge at buffets or store so much fat.Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz, America's most trusted doctor team and authors of the bestselling YOU series, are now translating this cutting-edge information to help you shave inches off your waist. They're going to do it by giving you the best weapon against fat: knowledge. By understanding how your body's fat-storing and fat-burning systems work, you're going to learn how to crack the code on true and lifelong waist management.Roizen and Oz will invigorate you with equal parts information, motivation, and change-your-life action to show you how your brain, stomach, hormones, muscles, heart, genetics, and stress levels all interact biologically to determine if your body is the size of a baseball bat or of a baseball stadium. In YOU: On a Diet, Roizen and Oz will redefine what a healthy figure is, then take you through an under-theskin tour of the organs that influence your body's size and its health. You'll even be convinced that the key number to fixate on is not your weight, but your waist size, which best indicates the medical risks of storing too much fat.Because the world has almost as many diet plans as it has e-mail spammers, you'd think that just about all of us would know everything there is to know about dieting, about fat, and about the reasons why our bellies have grown so large. YOU: On a Diet is much more than a diet plan or a series of instructions and guidelines or a faddish berries-only eating plan. It's a complete manual for waist management. It will show you how to achieve and maintain an ideal and healthy body size by providing a lexicon according to which any weight-loss system can be explained. YOU: On a Diet will serve as the operating system that facilitates future evolution in our dieting software. After you learn about the biology of your body and the biology and psychology of fat, you'll be given the YOU Diet and YOU Workout. Both are easy to learn, follow, and maintain. Following a two-week rebooting program will help you lose up to two inches from your waist right from the start.With Roizen and Oz's signature accessibility, wit, and humor, YOU: On a Diet -- The Owner's Manual for Waist Management will revolutionize the way you think about yourself and the food you consume, so that you'll diet smart, not hard. Welcome to your body on a diet.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.