Man searching the internet on his laptop for Heartburn relief

3 Lifestyle Changes for Better GERD Management

Published on Wednesday, January 06, 2021 by Amy Goodson

What can you start doing today to help your GERD symptoms?

Try one of these three things!

It’s well known that GERD can be exacerbated by a variety of things, including various lifestyle behaviors. And the reality is, those behaviors can be hard to change overnight. But in order to get GERD symptoms and flare-ups under control, it’s important to start working on them little by little. So, what can you do today to help your GERD condition? Try one of these three things.

Don’t eat late at night

Many people snack late at night due to cravings, stress or even boredom. And while the temptation to snack is real, it has serious implications on reflux when you go to sleep. Snacking before lying down can cause symptoms to flare up more so than other times. When you are sitting up in a vertical position, it helps food stay in the stomach. However, if your esophageal sphincter is weak and you are lying horizontally, there is a greater risk that food can enter back into the esophagus causing burning and other heartburn symptoms.

So, how do you combat this? Well, the goal is to limit food consumption the two to three hours before bed. This allows your body plenty of time to digest the food you ate and limits the opportunity for reflux to occur. Eating a dinner high in fiber and protein should help you get full faster and stay full longer, ideally preventing nighttime cravings. Consider “closing the kitchen” after dinner to reduce the temptation to snack. Pour a glass of water, turn out the lights and don’t let yourself re-enter the kitchen until the next morning. It might seem funny, but the behavior change can make a world of difference.

Don’t overeat at meals or snacks

Eating too much at meal or snack time can cause GERD symptoms to flare up. When the stomach is really full, it increases the opportunity for food to travel back up into the esophagus. The best way to combat this to eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. When you eat more often you are less likely to be as hungry at the next meal or snack. This can help you make more mindful choices and ultimately better manage your portion sizes.

Being prepared is key! Planning mealtimes, as well as what you will eat, can set you up for success. Allow enough time to eat breakfast in the morning, schedule lunch in your day and have healthy snacks readily available. This might mean stocking snacks in your desk, computer bag or purse. When you have healthy options around you, you are more likely to choose a healthy option. Where most people mess up is not having a nutrient-rich option available and relying on what is convenient, or not eating at all, leaving them extra hungry at the next meal or snack. So, to prevent overeating, think and plan in advance. Put a reminder on your phone or computer if necessary. Overtime, it will become a habit. 

Pay attention to what you eat

Many people find themselves snacking on the most convenient food, which is often high-fat, high-sugar and/or high-calorie. While high-fat foods can trigger GERD symptoms to flare up, high-sugar foods can contribute to cravings later in the day. Your goal is to consume meals and snacks that are in fiber and protein. Both help you get full faster and stay full longer. 

Foods with fiber include oats and other whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and nut butters, beans and lentils. Protein can be found in animal foods like meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs, as well as some plant-based foods like soy, beans, lentils, legumes, nuts and seeds. Filling up on more wholesome, nutrient-rich foods can help decrease GERD symptoms by helping you manage hunger levels, food choices and cravings.

It really boils down to what you’re eating, when you’re eating and how much you’re eating at one time. All can have negative effects on GERD. But the good news is that these are all manageable with simple lifestyle tweaks and changes. You don’t have to change everything overnight. Choose one, work on it and make it a habit. Then, choose another and do the same. Over time, you will make a variety of lifestyle changes that ultimately help improve your GERD symptoms and decrease your chance of flare-ups.

* articles have been reviewed by subject experts for accuracy, if you are experiencing heartburn and think you may be dealing with GERD, please see a GI doctor. 

Leave a comment on this article: