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Conditions in Depth

This page contains the basic information about Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) .

Return to the Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Main Condition Center


There are a lot of things you can do to prevent the symptoms of GERD. Some simple lifestyle changes include:

  • Elevate the head of your bed at least six inches. If possible, put wooden blocks under the legs at the head of the bed. Or, use a solid foam wedge under the head portion of the mattress. Simply using extra pillows may not help.

  • Avoid foods that cause the esophageal sphincter to relax during their digestion. These include:

    • Coffee

    • Chocolate

    • Fatty foods

    • Whole milk

    • Peppermint

    • Spearmint

  • Limit acidic foods that make the irritation worse when they are regurgitated. These include citrus fruits and tomatoes.

  • Avoid carbonated beverages. Burps of gas force the esophageal sphincter to open and can promote reflux.

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals.

  • Do not lie down after eating.

  • Do not eat during the three to four hours before you go to bed.

  • If you smoke, quit.

  • Avoid drinking alcohol. It loosens the esophageal sphincter.

  • Lose weight if you are obese. Obesity can make it harder for the esophageal sphincter to stay closed.

  • Avoid wearing tight-fitting garments. Increased pressure on the abdomen can open the esophageal sphincter.

  • Use lozenges or gum to keep producing saliva.

People who have had GERD for more than five years should be tested for Barrett's esophagus. If Barrett's esophagus is found, it's a good idea to have an endoscopy at regular intervals. That way, cancerous changes can be identified and treated when the cancer is in its earliest stages.

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Created: 4/27/2004   |   Last Modified: 8/21/2006
From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2006 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.