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Keep Your Head Up

Keep Your Head UpUsing positional therapy to combat the symptoms of GERD

Though Nisssen Fundoplication may be the most surefire way to relieve chronic symptoms from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), there are many things you can do on your own to help keep those symptoms at bay. Dr. Bagnato can provide you with dietary guidelines that will help you avoid foods that exacerbate GERD symptoms, but using other tactics like positional therapy may also help you keep heartburn at bay.

What is positional therapy?

Quite simply, acid has a difficult time climbing up your esophagus if it faces a steeper incline. As most GERD sufferers know, the symptoms can worsen at night, and part of the problem is lying prone in bed. Though bad GERD symptoms can cause you to miss out on a good night’s rest, there’s also evidence that nighttime reflux can be even more damaging than daytime reflux because acid sits in your esophagus longer.

Give GERD an uphill battle while you sleep.

An excellent way to prevent nighttime GERD symptoms is to raise your head about four to eight inches as you sleep. This can be accomplished with the help of a special GERD mattress wedge, which can be placed under your regular mattress, or by raising the legs at the head of your bed with blocks. Just remember that propping your head up on a mountain of pillows won’t do any good—your whole body needs to rest on an incline for this kind of positional therapy to achieve maximum efficacy.
Of course, your spouse or partner may be less than pleased about sleeping at an angle. Though most bed partners will adjust over time, if putting your bed at an angle isn’t a possibility, simply sleeping on your left side may be beneficial as well. This will position your esophagus above your stomach, making it harder for acid to reach your esophagus. Just try to avoid sleeping on your right side, which will have the opposite effect.
Here are a couple other methods of positional therapy you can try during your waking hours to make it more difficult for acid to reflux:

  • Don’t lie down right after a meal. After you eat, you need to give your body time to digest to minimize the reflux of stomach acid. Try to eat dinner at least three hours before bed and don’t lay flat after a meal.
  • Eat in an upright position. Slouching will give acid a better opportunity to reach your esophagus. Instead, try to sit with your back straight as often as possible.
  • Don’t bend at the waist. If you need to pick something up, don’t bend down to grab it. This will compress the acid and push it toward your esophagus, while also giving acid the advantage of gravity. Bend at the knees instead. Squatting to pick things up is also much better for your back.

If you’re one of the many in the United States who suffer from chronic GERD symptoms, positional therapy may be one help in avoiding the misery that reflux can cause. Try some of these tactics, and ask Dr. Bagnato for more suggestions in how to keep GERD symptoms from causing you discomfort.


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