Treating GERD at Home

Female drinking water

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD, may be quickly defined as chronic heartburn. While moderate and severe cases of GERD tend to require treatment from a doctor, there are steps that a patient can take at home to reduce symptoms, including:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight – Excess belly fat places pressure on the abdomen, which may force stomach contents and acids back up the esophagus. If you need to lose weight, aim for slow, sustainable weight loss, making better choices in your daily life instead of engaging in fad diets. Many employers offer free programs or phone consultations for weight loss, and your family doctor should be willing to offer advice or make appropriate referrals.

  • Wear loose-fitting clothes – Clothes that fit tightly around the abdomen may have the same effects as extra belly fat, putting pressure on the abdomen and forcing stomach contents and acids into the esophagus. Wearing loose-fitting clothing may prevent undue pressure.

  • Identify and avoid triggers – Certain foods or beverages may trigger heartburn. Some of the more common triggers include spicy foods, fried or fatty foods, tomatoes or tomato sauce, chocolate, alcohol, mint, garlic, onions, or caffeine. If you suffer frequent heartburn, keep a food journal. If you notice you are consistently experiencing heartburn after eating certain items, try to avoid these foods in the future.

  • Eat smaller meals – Overeating may trigger heartburn for people just as severely as certain foods.

  • Wait three hours to lie down – Lying down makes reflux easier. Waiting at least three hours after eating to lie down or go to sleep may help ensure that food is fully digested and stomach acids have settled, reducing the risk of reflux.

  • Elevate the head of your bed – If you tend to experience acid reflux while lying down or sleeping, elevating your head (and therefore the top of your esophagus) may make it more difficult for stomach contents and acids to work their way up the esophagus. Placing wooden or cement blocks under the head of your bed frame to raise it six to nine inches is often the most effective manner of raising the head of the bed. If the construction of your bed frame does not allow for this, medical supply stores sell wedges that can be inserted between the mattress and box spring to elevate the head of the bed. Using extra pillows to prop oneself up is statistically ineffective.

If you find any of these methods effective, practice them regularly, but continue to communicate with your doctor about your reflux to ensure your condition is truly under control. If these methods do not seem to provide any or much relief, schedule a special appointment with your doctor to discuss medical treatment options.

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