Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is characterized by frequent reflux (backward flow) of the stomach’s acidic contents into the esophagus, leading to pain, inflammation, and, possibly, tissue damage. People who suffer from GERD often refer to these symptoms as heartburn or acid indigestion. The reflux itself does not necessarily cause symptoms or injury—it occurs occasionally in healthy people and is a problem only if it creates complications and requires lifestyle changes or medical treatment. Management of GERD may require modifications in diet and lifestyle to reduce the recurrence of acid reflux or minimize discomfort. Recommendations typically include the following:
Consume only small meals and drink liquids between meals so that the stomach does not become overly distended, which can exert pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter. – Limit foods or substances that increase gastric acid secretion (such as alcohol and coffee) or weaken the pressure of the lower esophageal sphincter (such as alcohol, chocolate, fried or fatty foods, peppermint, and spearmint). – During periods of esophagitis, avoid foods and beverages that may irritate the esophagus, such as citrus fruits and juices, tomato products, garlic, onions, pepper, spicy foods, carbonated beverages, and very hot or very cold foods (depending on individual tolerances). – Avoid eating bedtime snacks or lying down after meals. Meals should be consumed at least three hours before bedtime.
Reduce nighttime reflux by elevating the head of the bed on 6-inch blocks, inserting a foam wedge under the mattress, or propping pillows under the head and upper torso. – Avoid bending over and wearing tight-fitting garments; both can cause pressure in the stomach to increase, heightening the risk of reflux. – Avoid cigarette smoking, which relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter. – Avoid using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen, which can damage the esophageal mucosa.