Reflux means that stomach acid and juices flow from the stomach back up into the tube that leads from the throat to the stomach (oesophagus). This causes heartburn when you have heartburn at least 2 times a week; it is called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.
Eating too much or bending forward after eating sometimes causes heartburn and a sour taste in the mouth. But having heartburn from time to time doesn't mean you have GERD. With GERD, the reflux—and heartburn—last longer and come more often. If this happens to you, it is important to treat it, because GERD can cause ulcers and damage to the oesophagus.
Normally when you swallow your food, it travels down the food pipe (oesophagus) to a valve that opens to let the food pass into the stomach and then closes. With GERD, the valve doesn't close tightly enough. Stomach acid and juices flow from the stomach and back up (reflux) into the oesophagus.
- Quit smoking or using tobacco.
- After eating, wait 2 to 3 hours before you lie down.
- Raise the head of your bed 6 to 8 inches by putting blocks under the frame or a foam wedge under the head of the mattress.
- If you are overweight, lose weight. Even losing a small amount of weight can help.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes around your waist and midsection. This puts less pressure on the stomach.
- Try to eat smaller meals more often, and avoid any foods that make you feel worse.
- Use chewing gum or hard candies to increase the amount of saliva your mouth produces. Saliva washes stomach juices out of the oesophagus into the stomach and can control stomach acid.