Dietary and lifestyle modifications play a significant part in GERD therapy. The recommendations for making lifestyle changes are based on physiologic data that certain body positions, tobacco and alcohol use, and body mass index contribute to the lower esophageal sphincter relaxation, reflux, or both. Although there are little data to support the effectiveness of lifestyle intervention on relieving symptoms, the American College of Gastroenterology continue to recommend these measures as adjuncts to drug therapy.
Below are some tips to significantly reduce the frequency and severity of acid reflux symptoms.
Don't lie down after eating
Wait for least two to three hours after eating before lying on your back going to bed. Gravity helps to keep the stomach content from backing up into the esophagus. Lying down puts the stomach at the same level, or even above the level of the esophagus and this can increase the likelihood for reflux.
Elevate your head a few inches while you sleep
This is a standard lifestyle modification for GERD. Lying flat presses the gastric contents against the lower esophageal sphincter and may result in reflux. An elevation of about 6 to 9 inches will allow gravity to assist in preventing reflux while you sleep. You can elevate your head by placing wood or cement blocks under the the feet of your bed. If this is not possible, you use a foam wedge. Insert the wedge between your mattress and box spring to elevate the upper half of your body. Wedges are available in medical supply stores.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Obesity can aggravate the symptoms of GERD. Having extra weight increases abdominal pressure which can push stomach contents up into the esophagus. The frequency and severity of GERD seems to be worse in obese patients. A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) study shows that a significantly higher number of GERD-related hospitalizations occurred among the obese.
If you are overweight or obese, talk to your doctor to find out about weight-loss programs that would work best for you.
Patients with GERD are advised to quit smoking because it is thought to decrease the lower esophageal sphincter's ability to function properly. It is also known to stimulate the production of stomach acid and reduce salivary secretion rate. Both of these effects will compromise the body's natural defenses against GERD.
Avoid tight-fitting clothing.
Clothes that fit tightly around your waist, such as snug jeans or a tight belt, can increase pressure on your abdomen and the lower esophageal sphincter.
Keep a diary of GERD symptoms
Write down your symptoms and see if there's a pattern. This is a good way to find out when heartburn occurs and the specific activities that trigger the symptoms.Treatments include:
Effect of Yoga on Heartburn/GERD
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Effect of Acupuncture on Heartburn/GERD
Acupuncture can help to mitigate some of the symptoms of GERD and may also help correct the underlying imbalance that is causing the condition.
Read more about Heartburn/GERD and Acupuncture.
Katz, P.,Curbside Consultation in GERD: 49 Clinical Questions. 2008. Slack
Mauk, K., Gerontological Nursing: Competencies for Care. 2006. Jones & Bartlett
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