2016-06-08 15:43:08 UTC

GERD 105: Treatment

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Both medications and changes in your habits can put off and control symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Talk to your doctor about what choices are best for you to try first. 

Keeping a diary about what you eat, when you eat, and how you feel after you eat can also help you better handle your symptoms and gives your doctor useful information on what to suggest to make you feel better. Try the MyGIHealth® app to help keep track of your symptoms.

Below is a list of things you can do to try to help control symptoms of GERD. 

Daily Habits

  • Do not eat or drink items that give you heartburn or other bad symptoms. Some such items might be:
    • Fried or fatty foods.
    • Chocolate.
    • Peppermint.
    • Alcohol.
    • Coffee (including decaf). 
    • Carbonated drinks.
    • Ketchup and mustard.
    • Vinegar.
    • Tomato sauce.
    • Citrus fruits or juices.
  • Be careful taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory and pain medications other than acetaminophen (like Tylenol®). These can make heartburn worse.
  • Eat smaller portions of food during meals and don’t eat too much.
  • Stop eating three hours before lying down to sleep.
  • Raise the head of the bed four to six inches using blocks or phone books.
  • If you are overweight, lose weight.
  • Pressure on your belly can make reflux worse. Try not wearing tight clothing or control top hosiery and body shapers. Sit-ups, leg-lifts or stomach crunches can also make reflux worse.
  • Stop smoking.


  • Acid-blocking medications should only to be used at the dose and for the length of time showed on the label; be sure to tell your doctor if you use OTC acid-blocking medications.
    • Antacids — they are available OTC; they get rid of acid in the stomach.
      • Examples are:
        • Alka-Seltzer®.
        • Maalox®.
        • Mylanta®.
        • Rolaids®.
        • Riopan®.
        • Tums®.
        • Gaviscon®.
      • Side effects may include diarrhea (loose stool) and constipation (hard stool or trouble passing stool).
    • H2RAs — these are available OTC and in prescription strength; they reduce stomach acid and work longer but not as quickly as antacids.
      • Examples are:
        • Pepcid® (famotidine).
        • Zantac® (ranitidine).
        • Axid® (nizatidine).
      • Side effects may include headache, upset stomach, throwing up, constipation, diarrhea and abnormal bleeding or bruising.
    • Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) — these are available OTC and in prescription strength; they are stronger at treating symptoms.
      • Examples are:
        • Prilosec® (omeprazole).
        • Prevacid® (lansoprazole).
        • Protonix® (pantoprazole).
        • Dexilant® (dexlansoprazole).
      • Side effects may include back pain, aching, cough, headache, dizziness, belly pain, gas, nausea, throwing up, constipation, diarrhea.


A small number of people with heartburn may need surgery because of severe reflux and poor response to nonsurgical treatment. Fundoplication is a surgery that reduces reflux. Patients not wanting to take medication to control their symptoms are also candidates for surgery. 

GERD – What to Know:

  • GERD is a health problem that does not go away after a few weeks.
  • The main symptom of GERD is heartburn.
  • Medications or changing certain eating habits can help ease the symptoms of GERD.
  • If not cared for, GERD could lead to other health issues.


© AGA, September 2017

©AGA, July 2016

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