We all get heartburn after eating every so often. But if you have that painful, burning sensation in your chest on a regular basis, you might have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It’s also called acid reflux disease.
You’re at a higher risk for GERD if you:
You can aggravate GERD if you:
- eat large meals
- eat close to bedtime
- eat fatty or fried foods
- drink coffee
- drink tea
- drink alcohol
- use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin
Stomach acid in your esophagus causes GERD. Your esophagus is the tube connecting your mouth and stomach. There’s a valve between your stomach and your esophagus that normally only works one way, allowing food and fluids into your stomach and then closing quickly.
With GERD, the valve doesn’t work as it should. It allows food and stomach acid to flow back (reflux) into your esophagus. This acid reflux irritates the lining of your esophagus. People often feel symptoms 30 minutes to 2 hours after eating.
Certain medications can cause GERD symptoms, such as:
- anticholinergics, used to treat a variety of conditions
- bronchodilators, used to treat asthma
- progestin, used in birth control or to treat abnormal menstrual bleeding
- sedatives, used to treat anxiety or insomnia
- calcium channel blockers, used to treat high blood pressure
- tricyclics, used to treat depression
- dopamine-active drugs, used to treat Parkinson’s disease
A few simple lifestyle changes can help you reduce the frequency of your acid reflux. Consider the following:
- Maintain a healthy weight to relieve pressure on your abdomen.
- Stop smoking. Here’s some apps that can help.
- Let gravity help: Elevate the head of your bed 6 to 9 inches.
- Wait a minimum of three hours after eating before lying down or going to bed.
- Avoid clothes that fit tightly around your waist.
- Avoid drugs such as aspirin, naproxen (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Instead, take acetaminophen (Tylenol) to relieve pain.
- Take all medications with extra water.
- Ask your doctor if newly prescribed medications will worsen your GERD.
By altering your diet and eating habits, you could reduce the frequency of your acid reflux. Here are some tips.
The first adjustment is to increase your fiber intake and avoid the following foods:
- citrus fruits
- citrus juices
- tomato products
- greasy, fried foods
- carbonated beverages
- spicy foods
- garlic and onions
- full-fat dairy (including sour cream, cheese, and whole milk)
- alcoholic beverages
You can work to reduce the impact of GERD on your life by not only adjusting what you eat, but also the way you eat:
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
- Eat your food slowly and chew it thoroughly.
- Practice good posture. While eating, sit upright. Avoid bending over or reaching below your waist for an hour after meals.
- Avoid eating before bedtime. Wait at least three hours after eating to lie down or go to bed.
- Watch for trigger foods that appear to encourage your GERD symptoms.
Work with your doctor to put together a plan to manage your GERD. A combination of lifestyle and behavioral changes — along with prescription medication, if necessary, can ease the amount of discomfort you experience and the frequency of it.