Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder that is caused by gastric acid flowing from the stomach into the esophagus. Gastroesophageal refers to the stomach and esophagus and reflux means to flow back or return. Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) is the return of acidic stomach juices, or food and fluids, back up into the esophagus.

In many cases, GERD can be relieved through diet and lifestyle changes, as directed by your doctor. Some ways to manage heartburn include the following:

  • Monitor the medications you are taking--some may irritate the lining of the stomach or esophagus.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Watch food intake and limit fried and fatty foods, peppermint, chocolate, alcohol, citrus fruit and juices, tomato products, and caffeinated drinks, such as coffee, soda pop, and energy drinks. .
  • Eat smaller portions.
  • Avoid overeating.
  • Watch consumption of alcohol.
  • Do not lie down or go to bed right after a meal. Instead, wait a couple of hours.
  • Lose weight, if necessary.
  • Elevate the head of the bed 6 inches by placing bricks or cinderblocks under the legs of the bed.
  • Take an antacid, as directed by your doctor.

Ask your doctor about use of over-the-counter medicines called H2-blockers and protein pump inhibitors. Formerly available only by prescription, these drugs can be taken before eating to prevent heartburn from occurring. Also, promotility medications, which help to empty food from the stomach, may be prescribed by your doctor.

Occasionally, a surgical procedure called fundoplication may be performed to help keep the esophagus in proper position and prevent reflux.