Treatment for gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) aim to:
- relieve symptoms
- reduce the risk of complications
- improve quality of life
- heal any ulcers in the oesophagus
They are usually rolled-out on a step-by-step basis starting with lifestyle changes.
You can make some lifestyle changes to help manage your GORD symptoms. They include:
- eating a low fat diet
- losing weight, if necessary — even a small amount of weight loss can help your symptoms
- avoiding foods that make your symptoms worse, like coffee, alcohol, chocolate or tomatoes
- cutting back on alcohol
- stopping smoking, because tobacco smoke can irritate your digestive system and make your symptoms worse
- eating smaller, more frequent meals instead of three large meals each day
- eating your evening meal three to four hours before you go to bed
- raising the head of your bed if your symptoms are worse at night, and avoiding lying down after eating
- asking your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines to make sure they are not making your symptoms worse
If lifestyle changes alone fail to control symptoms, you may need to take medicines. Your doctor may prescribe a 4 to 8 week course of a medicine called a proton pump inhibitor (PPI). This reduces the amount of acid produced in the stomach to help with your symptoms.
PPIs should not be taken long term when not needed, because of the cost and possible side effects. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommends that you discuss any medication you are taking for GORD or heartburn with your doctor or specialist to assess the possibility of reducing your dose or stopping the medication if safe to do so. For further information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.
Surgery is only required for a small percentage of people with severe symptoms, or whose symptoms are not relieved adequately with medications, or who don’t want to take long-term medicines. It is performed through a ‘key-hole’ approach called laparoscopy.
Last reviewed: September 2018