Pyrosis; Non-cardiac chest pain
Treat heartburn, especially if you often feel symptoms. Over time, reflux can damage the lining of your esophagus and cause serious problems. The good news is that changing your habits can help prevent heartburn and other symptoms of GERD.
The following tips will help you avoid heartburn and other GERD symptoms. If these measures do not work, talk to your doctor.
First, avoid foods and drinks that can trigger reflux, such as:
- Carbonated drinks
- Citrus fruits and juices
- Peppermint and spearmint
- Spicy or fatty foods, full-fat dairy products
- Tomatoes and tomato sauces
Next, try changing your eating habits:
- Avoid bending over or exercising just after eating.
- Avoid eating or lying down within 3 - 4 hours of bedtime. Lying down with a full stomach cause the stomach contents to press harder against the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).
- Eat smaller meals.
Make other lifestyle changes as needed:
- Avoid tight-fitting belts or clothes that fit snugly around the waist. They squeeze the stomach, and may force food to reflux.
- Lose weight if you are overweight. Obesity increases pressure in the stomach. This pressure can push the stomach contents up into the esophagus. In some cases, GERD symptoms disappear after an overweight person loses 10-15 pounds.
- Sleep with your head raised about 6 inches. Sleeping with the head higher than the stomach helps prevent digested food from backing up into the esophagus. Place books, bricks, or blocks under the legs at the head of your bed. Or use a wedge-shaped pillow under your mattress. Sleeping on extra pillows does NOT work well for relieving heartburn because you can slip off the pillows during the night.
- Stop smoking. Chemicals in cigarette smoke weaken the LES.
- Reduce stress. Try yoga, tai chi, or meditation.
If you still do not have full relief, try over-the-counter medications:
- Antacids, like Maalox or Mylanta, help neutralize stomach acid.
- H2 blockers, like Pepcid AC, Tagamet, and Zantac, reduce stomach acid production.
- Proton pump inhibitors, like Prilosec OTC, stop nearly all stomach acid production.
Review Date: 01/31/2011
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.