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Treating Acid Reflux Disease With Diet and Lifestyle Changes

Do you often experience the pain of heartburn or other symptoms of acid reflux? You might take comfort in knowing that making diet changes as well as other lifestyle changes may be all you need to do. Here's how.

What Kind of Diet Changes Can Help Acid Reflux?

One thing you can do to reduce your risk for heartburn and acid reflux disease is to eat low-fat, high-protein meals. Also, eat smaller meals more frequently; stop eating before you get too full.

Pay attention to foods that seem to trigger your heartburn and avoid them as much as possible. 

Beverages that commonly trigger heartburn or make it worse, include:

  • Coffee or tea (both regular and decaffeinated)
  • Other beverages that contain caffeine
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Alcohol

Foods that commonly trigger heartburn or make it worse, include:

  • Citrus fruits, such as oranges and lemons
  • Tomatoes and products that contain tomatoes, such as tomato sauce and salsa
  • Chocolate
  • Mint or peppermint
  • Fatty or spicy foods, such as chili or curry
  • Onions and garlic

What Other Lifestyle Changes Can Treat Acid Reflux?

In addition to acid reflux diet changes, see which of the following lifestyle changes you can make.

  • Quit smoking. Smoking increases your risk for heartburn and acid reflux disease in several ways. It may increase the amount of acid secreted by your stomach and interfere with the function of muscles that help keep acid down.
  • Reduce reflux while sleeping. These steps will help reduce reflux when you sleep:
    • Put blocks under the head of your bed to raise it at least 4 to 6 inches. This helps keep your stomach's contents down. However, it doesn't work to simply use lots of extra pillows because this position may increase pressure on your abdomen.
    • Stop eating at least two or three hours before lying down.
    • Try sleeping in a chair for daytime naps.
  • Lessen the pressure. Often, extra pressure around your abdomen increases acid reflux. Try these steps:
    • Don't wear tight clothes or tight belts.
    • If you're overweight or obese, take steps to lose weight with exercise and diet changes.

Can Medication Help Heartburn?

Over-the-counter medicine can help neutralize stomach acid. Antacids give quick, short-term relief for many people. If you need antacids frequently, it's better to also try a medicine to decrease stomach acid.

Medicine that helps block the production of acid included H2 blockers, such as Axid AR, Pepcid AC, Tagament HB, and Zantac 75.  If you have heartburn often for more than 14 days, a third type of medicine -- proton pump inhibitors -- can help. These include Prevacid 24HR, Prilosec OTC, and Zegerid OTC.

If you find you need to take heartburn medicine for more than two weeks, see your doctor. Also, ask your doctor whether any medication could be triggering your heartburn or other symptoms of acid reflux disease. These are examples of medications that may trigger acid reflux:

  • Aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and other anti-inflammatory pain relievers
  • Some muscle relaxants
  • Certain blood pressure drugs


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on April 02, 2014

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