5 Lifestyle Changes to Improve GERD Symptoms

An illustration of GERD symptoms to represent how to improve GERD symptoms

Birmingham Gastroenterology is proud to provide expert care for diseases of the gut. One of our specialties is the diagnosis and treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). According to leading researchers, GERD is a common gastrointestinal condition that affects about 20% of people in the United States. This condition is so common that it garners national attention during GERD Awareness Week, which runs from November 21 to November 27. Lifestyle modifications can improve GERD symptoms and should be a priority for anyone experiencing symptoms.


In a recent study, five distinct lifestyle factors were identified that predicted which participants were less likely to develop GERD. One of these factors was partaking in moderate to vigorous exercise for at least 30 minutes daily. Regular exercise also helps maintain normal body weight, which plays an important role in preventing and treating GERD symptoms. Excess weight has the potential to distort the anatomy of the esophageal valve, leading to reflux.

Follow a GERD-Approved Diet

A GERD-approved diet is considered to be high in fiber and protein and lean in fat. This healthy way of eating helps reduce GERD symptoms and promotes optimal overall health and healthy body weight. Another element of eating to minimize GERD symptoms is to know which foods to avoid. General triggers include fried foods, chocolate, caffeinated beverages, spicy foods, and carbonated beverages. Fats of any kind may also predispose the body to reflux, and in some cases, acidic foods, including citrus fruits and tomatoes, may also result in excess stomach acid production. It is especially important for people with GERD to avoid alcohol. Alcohol is a significant trigger of GERD symptoms because it decreases the strength of the esophageal sphincter. In addition, many alcoholic beverages contain other elements that should be avoided by people with GERD, including carbonation found in beer or acid inherent in wine. Trigger foods generally worsen GERD symptoms by either promoting excess acid production or causing relaxation of the esophageal sphincter. If you seek out lifestyle changes to improve GERD symptoms, streamlining your diet is usually the first step. 

Be Conscious of Timing 

If you’re trying to improve GERD symptoms, paying attention to what, how much you eat are all crucial steps. As a general rule, try to eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day rather than consuming one large meal in one sitting. Larger meals require more time for your stomach to digest and may put extra pressure on the valve between your esophagus and your stomach. Giving yourself enough time between dinner and going to bed may also improve your symptoms since laying flat makes it easier for stomach acid to flow and reach your throat. When you wait to recline for at least three hours after eating, gravity can help to keep your stomach contents in place. 

Don’t Smoke

Not smoking was another key element identified in the study participants deemed less likely to develop GERD. Smoking wreaks havoc on all systems in the body, but nicotine, in particular, has been known to weaken the muscle that controls the valve between the stomach and esophagus.

Other Things to Consider

Other lifestyle changes you can take to improve your GERD symptoms are simple, quick fixes, such as wearing loose-fitting clothes that eliminate pressure on the stomach or adding another pillow behind your head when you sleep at night. Research has shown that sleeping at a slight incline can reduce nighttime reflux episodes.

Contact Birmingham Gastroenterology

If you are experiencing issues with your digestive system, contact the team at Birmingham Gastroenterology Associates. We can diagnose digestive problems and work with you to help your digestive system regain its normal function. If you are experiencing frequent or persistent GERD symptoms, make an appointment to discuss how to improve GERD symptoms and identify treatment options.

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