Most people with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) respond well to treatment and the outlook is generally good.
The first thing to do if you are living with GORD is to make lifestyle changes.
Diet and nutrition
GORD is a digestive problem, so diet and nutrition play an important part in its management.
Most people with GORD find that their symptoms are influenced by what they eat and drink, as well as how and when they eat.
It's recommended to eat smaller, more frequent meals, avoid eating 2 to 3 hours before you go to bed, and to not lie down straight after eating.
It is a good idea to work out which foods trigger your symptoms so you can avoid them. The foods will be different for everyone, so only cut out the ones that are a problem for you. You don’t have to restrict your diet unnecessarily.
For many people, problem foods include:
- fatty or spicy foods and pepper
- drinks containing caffeine
- soft drinks
- citrus fruit juices
You could also try to avoid:
- battered or fried foods
- rich cakes and biscuits
- fatty food such as hamburgers, fried chicken and pizza
Try to make mealtimes stress-free by eating slowly, taking time to chew food properly and generally making sure it is a relaxing time.
To improve your digestion, it’s a good idea to increase fibre by replacing some of your normal diet with wholemeal bread, brown rice, fruit and vegetables, beans and oats. Drink plenty of fluids such as water, but avoid or cut down on soft drinks and caffeinated drinks.
Tobacco smoke irritates your digestive system and makes your symptoms worse. Quitting smoking has been shown to significantly improve symptoms in people who are taking medication for GORD.
For people who are overweight or obese, losing just a few kilos can significantly reduce the risk of having frequent symptoms. The more weight you lose, the greater the relief. Ask your doctor whether you need to lose weight.
Exercising regularly, such as walking every day, can help with digestion and weight loss.
Cut back on alcohol
Alcohol irritates the stomach and relaxes the muscles around the oesophagus, allowing stomach acid to reflux. Cutting back can relieve symptoms in some people.
Raise the bed head
Safely raising the head of your bed by about 20cm with something strong such as a piece of wood or wooden blocks, or using a pillow to wedge the mattress, can help if you have reflux symptoms at night. Try not to lie down after you eat.
If lifestyle changes fail to control symptoms, then medicines can be added.
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Last reviewed: September 2020