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How can I prevent gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD)?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

No one is exactly sure why gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and heartburn affect some people and not others, but you can take steps to prevent GERD and heartburn by addressing the risk factors that are under your control. These include obesity and smoking. You can start a weight-loss program if you are overweight or try to quit smoking if you are a smoker. Before taking new medications, it is a good idea to check with your doctor to see if they increase your risk of GERD and heartburn.

Changing what you eat and drink can help if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and heartburn. Foods that can trigger heartburn and other GERD symptoms include:

  • Spicy foods
  • Fried or fatty foods
  • Acidic foods
  • Tomato sauce or paste
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Citrus fruit

Drinks that can trigger heartburn and other GERD symptoms include:

  • Alcohol
  • Coffee and other caffeinated drinks
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Citrus juice

In addition to avoiding these items, eating smaller portions may help control your GERD and heartburn symptoms. It is also a good idea to wait at least three hours after you eat before you lie down.

Sanjay Krishnan
Sanjay Krishnan on behalf of MDLIVE
Healthcare Specialist

Gatro-esophageal reflux disease is caused by stomach acid traveling upward into our food pipe otherwise known as our esophagus. The presence of this stomach acid burning our esophagus causes that burning sensation. We all have a valve between our esophagus and stomach that allows our food to flow from our esophagus into our stomach but prevents backwards flow. However, there are certain things that make this valve leaky, and allows the flow of stomach acid upwards and hence reflux. Symptoms are generally worse at night because you are lying down, and do not have the aid of gravity to help pull food in a downwards fashion.

To help prevent GERD or reflux, try to avoid lying down for at least 2 hours after a meal. Eating dinner earlier in the evening will help. There have been certain substances that make the valve between our esophagus and stomach leaky as I said earlier so avoiding these substances will help prevent reflux. Some of the most common are alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, chocolate, peppermint, tomatoes or tomato sauce, and spicy foods. I also suggest to people with this problem, placing cinder blocks under the head of their bed in order to raise it six inches so you are sleeping at a slight incline will help use the force of gravity to pull things downwards while you sleep might help. Do not use extra pillows as you are just inclining your head and not your actual esophagus and will be ineffective!

Continue Learning about GERD

What Is Heartburn?
What Is Heartburn?
What Is the Difference Between Acidic and Alkaline Foods?
What Is the Difference Between Acidic and Alkaline Foods?
What Can Happen If GERD Is Untreated?
What Can Happen If GERD Is Untreated?
What Is GERD?
What Is GERD?

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.