GERD occurs when stomach acid frequently flows up into the esophagus. Normally the muscle in the lower esophagus called the esophageal sphincter protects the esophagus from acid reflux. The lower esophageal muscle weakens and leads to a backwash of acid ( acid reflux) that can irritate the ling of the esophagus. Heartburn, indigestion, reflux of food or acid are all symptoms of acid reflux
Most people can manage the discomfort of GERD with diet and lifestyle changes.
The lower esophageal muscle can be weakened by factors other than food. The following recommendations may be helpful in reducing symptoms:
- Stop using tobacco in all forms. Nicotine weakens the lower esophageal muscle.
- Avoid chewing gum and hard candy. They increase the amount of swallowed air which, in turn, leads to belching and reflux.
- Do not lie down immediately after eating. Avoid late evening snacks.
- Avoid tight clothing and bending over after eating.
- Eat small, frequent portions of food and snack if needed.
- Lose weight if overweight. Obesity leads to increased reflux.
- Elevate the head of the bed six to eight inches to prevent reflux when sleeping. Extra pillows, by themselves, are not very helpful.