How is GERD treated?
To treat GERD, we recommend the following:
- Raise the head of your bed by 6 inches to allow gravity to help keep the stomach's contents in the stomach. (Do not use piles of pillows because this puts your body into a bent position that actually aggravates the condition by increasing pressure on the abdomen.)
- Eat meals at least 3 to 4 hours before lying down, and avoid bedtime snacks.
- Eat moderate portions of food and smaller meals.
- Maintain a healthy weight to eliminate unnecessary intra-abdominal pressure caused by extra pounds.
- Limit consumption of fatty foods, chocolate, peppermint, coffee, tea, colas, and alcohol - all of which relax the lower esophageal sphincter. Also, avoid tomatoes and citrus fruits or juices, which contribute additional acid that can irritate the esophagus.
- Give up smoking, which also relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter.
- Wear loose belts and clothing.
What if my GERD and heartburn persist?
Many people will get relief from heartburn, and the pressure that goes with esophageal reflux, by following the tips above. Over-the-counter liquid antacids can also help in treating occasional heartburn. If your symptoms persist, do not respond to treatment, or occur often, you need to see a doctor for testing and treatment.
A visual examination of the esophagus, known as an endoscopy, might be necessary. Sometimes this test shows that the lining of the esophagus is severely inflamed and irritated by stomach acid. This condition, known as esophagitis, might lead to bleeding and difficulty in swallowing. Medical treatment for this condition might be necessary. This usually involves blocking acid production in the stomach.
Over-the-counter medicines, such as Tums®, Rolaids®, Maalox®, Zantac®, Tagamet®, Prilosec®,Pepcid®, and Axid®, can generally relieve esophageal reflux symptoms. Patients with more severe symptoms or those who have been using antacids for more than 2 weeks should contact their doctors, who can prescribe medicines to control or eliminate acid, such as H2-receptor antagonists and proton pump inhibitors. Only a few people need surgery to correct the disorder.