You've Been Diagnosed with GERD. What Now?

Once your doctor determines that you are suffering from GERD, the initial goals of treatment are to relieve the heartburn symptoms, heal the esophagus, and prevent complications. Treatment options include lifestyle changes, medicines and surgery.

Lifestyle Changes

Your doctor will suggest lifestyle changes that minimize reflux. Some changes include:

  • Elevate the head of your bed 4 to 6 inches when sleeping
  • Lose weight
  • Avoid large and late-night meals
  • Avoid caffeine, smoking and alcohol

Certain foods can be associated with reflux events and avoiding these foods is a good idea:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Chocolate
  • Drinks with caffeine
  • Fatty and fried foods
  • Garlic and onions
  • Mint flavorings
  • Spicy foods
  • Tomato-based foods


Your doctor may recommend medicines, including over-the-counter and prescription drugs, that stop acid production or help the muscles that empty your stomach.

Antacids, such as Alka-Selzer, Maalox, Mylanta, Pepto Bismol and Rolaids, act to decrease gastric acid production.

H2 blockers, such as cimetidine (Tagamet HB), famotidine (Pepcid AC) and ranitidine (Zantac 75), impede acid production and are available in prescription strength and over the counter. These drugs provide short-term relief. The over-the-counter H2 blockers should not be used for more than a few weeks at a time.

Proton pump inhibitors are all available by prescription. They include omeprazole (Prilosec), lansoprazole (Prevacid) and esomeprazole (Nexium), and can relieve symptoms in almost everyone who has GERD.

Prokinetics help manage GERD by increasing the barrier-muscle pressure and making the stomach empty faster. This group includes bethanechol (Urecholine) and metoclopramide (Reglan).

Drugs to treat GERD work in different ways, so combinations of drugs may help control symptoms. Your doctor is the best source of information on how to use medications for GERD.