• Reviewed on 12/10
    By Dr. Hanna


    • Philip D Hanna, MD

      Philip Hanna, MD
      Dept. of Medicine
      Chief, Division of Gastroenterology


      View full profile

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Lifestyle Management


Tips to Help Prevent Acid Reflux  

The following may be recommended to prevent gastroesophageal reflux:

Lifestyle changes:

  • If you are overweight, talk with your healthcare provider about losing weight. Obesity increases abdominal pressure, which can then push stomach contents up into the esophagus. According to some statistics, approximately 35 percent of overweight persons experience heartburn.

  • If you smoke, quitting smoking is important. Nicotine relaxes the esophageal sphincter. Smoking also stimulates the production of stomach acid. Your healthcare provider may have ideas to help you quit.

  • Relax. While stress hasn't been linked directly to heartburn, it is known that it can lead to behaviors that can trigger heartburn.

Dietary measures:

  • Limit citrus and tomato products (if they cause pain), strong spices, caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee and tea, carbonated drinks, fatty foods, chocolate, mint and alcohol.

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals rather than three large ones. A full stomach can put extra pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which will increase the chance that some of this food will reflux into the esophagus.

  • Avoid food or liquids for 2-3 hours before bedtime. Lying down with a full stomach can cause stomach contents to press harder against the LES, increasing the chances of refluxed food.

Physical measures:

  • Elevate the head of the bed 5-6 inches. Lying down flat presses the stomach's contents against the LES. With the head higher than the stomach, gravity helps reduce this pressure. You can elevate your head in a couple of ways. You can place bricks, blocks or anything that's sturdy securely under the legs at the head of your bed. You can also use a wedge-shaped pillow to elevate your head.

  • Avoid bending forward at the waist. This will squeeze the stomach, forcing food up against the LES.

  • Avoid wearing tight fitting clothing. Clothing that fits tightly around the abdomen will squeeze the stomach, forcing food up against the LES, and cause food to reflux into the esophagus. Clothing that can cause problems include tight-fitting belts and slenderizing undergarments.


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