How to Treat Acid Reflux

Most often, medication is used in the treatment of acid reflux. However, many people require surgery to help reinforce the lower esophageal sphincter. 

Treating Acid Reflux Through Lifestyle Modification

While you should always consult a doctor regarding reflux symptoms, there are some steps you can take to try to reduce your chances of having an episode of acid reflux, including: 

  • Stopping smoking
  • Reducing or eliminating alcohol for your diet
  • Losing weight
  • Sleeping with the head and chest elevated six to eight inches
  • Eating smaller meals
  • Not eating within four hours of bedtime
  • Avoiding foods that seem to trigger reflux (chocolate, citrus fruits, acidic foods, peppermint, fried or fatty foods and carbonated beverages)

It is important to note that these steps do not treat the underlying cause of reflux.

Treating Acid Reflux With Medication

Medications for the treatment of acid reflux fall into the following categories:

  • Proton pump inhibitors – Available in prescription and over the counter strength, these widely used drugs temporarily reduce the secretion of acid in the stomach. Because these medications may reduce calcium absorption, long-term use of these medications have been linked to decreased bone strength. The FDA recently warned consumers of the possible increased risk of bone fractures related to taking high doses or prolonged courses of these medications. 
  • H2 receptor antagonists – Histamines prompt certain cells in the stomach (parietal cells) to secrete acid. These drugs block the action of histamine on the parietal cells, thus reducing the acid that is secreted. The drugs in this category generally are tolerated well but have short-lived effects and must be taken in advance of eating.
  • Antacids – These medications, available over the counter in drug stores, help to neutralize the acid in the stomach. Some of these drugs also help to coat the lining of the esophagus. These medications have short-lived effects.
  • Prokinetics – These medications help by more quickly moving food through the stomach and small intestines. Serious side effects of some of these drugs often limit their use.
In general, reflux is first treated with medication. However, procedures are are considered for certain situations and are available at our Center for Research and Esophageal Cancer Prevention.