Lifestyle Changes for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

NYU Langone doctors often recommend making dietary and other lifestyle changes to reduce reflux and prevent damage to the esophagus caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). For some people with mild GERD symptoms, lifestyle changes alone may eliminate discomfort.

Dietary Changes

The first step in reducing GERD is often to limit foods that set off reflux. These “trigger foods” differ from person to person but often include chocolate, coffee, fried foods, peppermint, spicy foods, and carbonated beverages.

Your doctor may advise that you eliminate some or all of these foods or keep a food diary to pinpoint which foods trigger GERD symptoms.

Other Lifestyle Changes

In addition to avoiding dietary triggers, our doctors may recommend several lifestyle changes you can make to alleviate GERD symptoms:

  • Avoid lying down for at least two hours after a meal or after drinking acidic beverages, like soda, or other caffeinated beverages. This can help to prevent stomach contents from flowing back into the esophagus.
  • Keep your head elevated while you sleep. Using an extra pillow or two can also help to prevent reflux.
  • Eat smaller and more frequent meals each day instead of a few large meals. This promotes digestion and can aid in preventing heartburn.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes to ease pressure on the stomach, which can worsen heartburn and reflux.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking can increase the production of stomach acid and reduce the function of the lower esophageal sphincter, the muscle that keeps acid and other stomach content from reentering the esophagus. Smoking can also decrease the amount of saliva, which neutralizes acid produced by the body. Experts at NYU Langone’s Tobacco Cessation Programs can advise you on how to quit smoking for good.
  • Reduce excess weight around the midsection. This can ease pressure on the stomach. Such pressure can force some stomach contents back up the esophagus. NYU Langone doctors can discuss our Weight Management Program with you and refer you to specialists, if needed.

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