The medical name for heartburn is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a common condition. Some studies estimate that up to 36% of the US population has symptoms of GERD at least once a month. Treatment for GERD includes both lifestyle changes and medication. Treatment should first focus on dietary changes, lifestyle modification, and use of nonprescription antacids.
Many things can make GERD worse. These are some lifestyle changes doctors often recommend:
- Elevate the head of your bed.
- Don’t wear tight-fitting clothes.
- Quit smoking.
- Lose weight.
- Avoid large meals or late-evening meals.
- Don’t lie down for at least 30 minutes after a meal.
Changing your diet to avoid symptoms of GERD can be difficult. Many different foods can worsen GERD symptoms, and how well dietary restrictions control symptoms varies from person to person. This is because certain foods cause symptoms in some people but don’t in others. So dietary restrictions should first focus on foods that are thought to worsen symptoms in everyone. Other restrictions may then be set on an individual basis. Foods that all people with GERD should try to avoid include:
- Foods high in fat and carbohydrates.
- Citrus juices.
In addition to changes in lifestyle and diet, patients may find some relief from over-the-counter antacids. If you have symptoms of GERD, and especially if your symptoms continue despite changing your diet and lifestyle, you may need prescription-strength antacids. You should see your doctor to find out what is right for you.