GERD: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Self-Care


Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a common medical health condition estimated to affect nearly 20% of people in the United States1. While medication and medical interventions can play a role in managing symptoms and providing GERD relief, there are also self-care strategies for how to treat GERD at home that can make a noticeable positive impact.

Today, we’re discussing the importance of gastroesophageal reflux disease self-care — including what the condition is, why you need to treat it, effective GERD self care methods, and what could make symptoms worse. Read on to then speak to your healthcare professional to determine a plan to find relief and improve your quality of life.

What Is GERD?

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (frequently referred to as GERD) is a chronic digestive disorder characterized by the frequent backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus. This condition occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a ring of muscle located between the esophagus and the stomach, weakens or relaxes abnormally. Normally, the LES acts as a barrier that prevents stomach acid from entering the esophagus. When it malfunctions, however, stomach acid can flow back up to cause irritation and inflammation of your esophageal lining.

Common GERD Symptoms

While each person may have a different combination of GERD symptoms, there is an established list of the most common ones you may encounter. GERD is often associated with symptoms such as:

  • Heartburn
  • Regurgitation of sour or bitter-tasting acid into the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing

These symptoms can vary in severity and frequency, ranging from occasional discomfort to a more persistent and debilitating condition. Several factors can contribute to the development of GERD, including lifestyle habits, dietary choices, obesity, smoking, and certain medications. Understanding the underlying causes and triggers of the conditions is vital to learning how to get relief from GERD in the short and long term.

Importance of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Self-Care

Left untreated, GERD can lead to complications such as esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus), esophageal ulcers, strictures (narrowing of the esophagus), Barrett's esophagus (a precancerous condition), and even an increased risk of esophageal cancer.

Managing symptoms via gastroesophageal reflux disease self-care may require a holistic approach that includes lifestyle adjustments, dietary changes, medication, and, in some more severe cases, surgical intervention. Keeping an eye on any symptoms you’re experiencing and discussing them with your doctor are the first steps to coming up with an effective method for GERD relief.

Effective GERD Relief Methods

Gastroesophageal reflux disease self-care is essential for improving your quality of life and preventing potential future complications. While medication and medical interventions are commonly prescribed, lifestyle modifications for how to treat GERD at home may supplement your efforts naturally to alleviate symptoms and achieve GERD relief.

Some gastroesophageal reflux disease self-care methods you could try include:

  1. Adjusting your diet: Avoiding trigger foods such as spicy foods, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and chocolate may help with GERD relief and help with how to improve gut health naturally overall. Choosing smaller, more frequent meals rather than large meals can also prevent overeating and minimize the likelihood of acid reflux. You should also try avoiding lying down immediately after eating.
  2. Using a zero gravity chair:  Zero gravity chairs recline the body where your legs are elevated above your heart level. By elevating the upper body so you’re not lying flat, a zero gravity chair may help improve digestion and reduce pressure on the LES, thus minimizing the risk of acid reflux. It also serves as a better place to sleep with your head elevated so as not to aggravate GERD symptoms that way.
  3. Stress reduction techniques: Practicing stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness meditation, calming breathing exercises, and yoga can help with GERD relief. Managing stress effectively reduces the likelihood of triggering acid reflux episodes and promotes overall gastrointestinal health.
  4. Regular exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity like walking, cycling, or other low impact exercises, can help improve digestion and GERD relief. Exercise helps with how to prevent obesity and maintain a healthy weight. This reduces pressure on your abdomen and minimizes your risk of acid reflux.
  5. Loose clothing choices: Wearing loose-fitting clothing, especially around the waist, reduces pressure on the abdomen and may help with how to treat GERD at home. Tight clothing compresses the stomach and LES, increasing the likelihood of acid reflux episodes.
  6. Alcohol and caffeine moderation: Alcohol and caffeine can relax the LES and increase stomach acid production, exacerbating GERD symptoms. Limiting or avoiding alcohol and caffeine intake as part of your GERD self care efforts can help reduce the frequency of acid reflux episodes.

What Makes GERD Symptoms Worse?

We’ve discussed gastroesophageal reflux disease self-care methods for GERD relief, but what about knowing what could make things worse? Several factors can exacerbate GERD symptoms, increasing discomfort and potentially leading to future complications if left unchecked.

Common contributors to worsening GERD symptoms include:

  1. Spicy foods, citrus fruits, chocolate, and tomatoes
  2. Alcohol and caffeine
  3. Eating too late at night or lying down right after a meal
  4. Smoking
  5. Being overweight
  6. Elevated stress levels
  7. Some medications

If you feel your GERD symptoms are getting worse, consult your doctor to determine which, if any, of these factors may be negatively impacting your GERD self care efforts.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease self-care plays a vital role in managing GERD and finding relief from its symptoms now and in the long term. By understanding triggers, making dietary and lifestyle adjustments, implementing stress-reduction techniques, and other simple efforts, you can achieve GERD relief and minimize episodes of discomfort. As always, work closely with your healthcare provider to develop a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and medical history.

Additional Sources

Disclaimer: This content is not medical advice. Please consult with your health care professional when considering implementing changes to your health or workout routines to ensure it’s compatible with your needs.