If you suffer from frequent heartburn, the most common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), then even the most basic day-to-day life activities can affect your condition. What were once regular habits; such as eating, sleeping, and exercise, can be either aggravators or alleviators. The best approach for alleviating symptoms is a balanced lifestyle of food, exercise, sleep, and medication. Here are some things to consider:
- Begin by keeping a diary of what you eat and when you eat it for about a week, making a note when you feel an increase or decrease in your symptoms. This record will help identify which foods in particular might be influencing your symptoms.
- Be especially aware of the following foods, which might trigger or worsen heartburn: spices, onion, coffee and tea (decaffeinated or regular), citrus fruits, peppermint, carbonated beverages, tomato (including tomato products such as juice and sauce), pepper, chocolate, alcoholic beverages, fried or fatty foods, mustard, and vinegar.
- Plan an early dinner and do not lie down within 3 hours of eating.
- Avoid smoking as it relaxes the LES (lower esophageal sphincter). The LES is responsible for keeping stomach acid in your stomach; instead of refluxing up into the esophagus where it can cause pain and even damage. It’s best to give up smoking completely.
- Discuss any plans for vigorous exercising, lifting, or bending with your physician before you begin.
- Try stacking six-inch blocks under the head of your mattress to elevate it; you can use gravity to help keep stomach acid from entering your esophagus.
- Inform your healthcare professionals of all medications you take regularly and any side effects and allergic reactions to medicines you have experienced in the past. Your physician or pharmacist can identify any possible drug combinations that might cause you problems.
- Take your medication as prescribed. Keep it in the same place in your house as a daily cue and leave yourself reminder notes if you regularly forget to take your medicine. Make sure you refill your prescription before it runs out.
- Ask your physician for advice and treatment. While it helps to learn as much as you can independently, it’s always best to have your questions answered by a professional.