• Reducing Your Risk of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)/Heartburn

    General Guidelines

    Avoid Specific Eating and Drinking Habits

    Habits to avoid include:
    • Overeating (habitually eating large meals)
    • Ingesting large amounts of fluid with meals
    • Eating too fast
    • Drinking specific beverages, including:
      • Alcohol
      • Caffeinated drinks
      • Coffee with or without caffeine
      • Carbonated drinks
      Eating specific foods, including:
      • High-fat foods
      • Spicy foods
      • Chocolate
      • Onions
      • Mint
      • Citrus fruits
      • Tomato products

    Quit Smoking

    Smoking cigarettes weakens the lower esophageal sphincter. Stopping smoking can help reduce GERD symptoms.

    After Eating, Wait to Lie Down

    After eating meals, wait at least 2-3 hours before lying down. This may lessen reflux by giving the stomach time to empty.

    After Eating, Wait to Exercise

    Exercising immediately after eating (especially jogging or strenuous activity) can cause stomach acid to reflux into the esophagus. Wait at least 2-3 hours after eating to exercise.

    Don’t Wear Tight Clothes or Belts

    Wearing clothing or belts that are too tight can increase the reflux of stomach acid by increasing abdominal pressure. For the same reason, don’t bend over or strain, especially soon after meals.

    Maintain a Healthy Weight

    If you are overweight, losing weight and bringing your weight within the healthful range can help reduce the symptoms of GERD.

    Elevate Your Head When Sleeping

    Elevate the head of your bed by placing 4-6 inch blocks under the legs at the head of the bed. This reduces heartburn by allowing gravity to minimize reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus.

    Chew Sugarless Gum for About 30 Minutes After a Meal

    Chewing sugarless gum can help treat GERD by increasing saliva flow. Saliva is alkaline, which can help neutralize stomach acids in the esophagus. Make sure the gum is sugarless; gum with sugar can promote tooth decay.

    When to Contact Your Healthcare Provider

    Contact your healthcare provider if new symptoms develop or old symptoms persist, worsen, or recur despite changing your lifestyle habits.


    American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at: http://www.gastro.org/ . Accessed March 6, 2006.

    The Merck Manual of Medical Information. 17th ed. Simon and Schuster, Inc.; 2000.

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/ . Accessed March 7, 2006.

    The Society of Thoracic Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.ctsnet.org/ . Accessed March 7, 2006.

    Revision Information

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