Tired of heartburn and a restricted diet? The following solutions can block or eliminate your symptoms altogether.

Chronic heartburn, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is uncomfortable and inconvenient. It’s also common. More than 60 million Americans experience heartburn at least once a month, and 15 million people have heartburn daily. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to reduce or get rid of your discomfort, including a new surgical option developed by doctors at Keck Medicine of USC.

Begin with preventative measures. Based on your diagnosis, your doctor may recommend any or all of the following tips:

  • Eat smaller meals; the more you eat, the harder your esophagus has to work.
  • Avoid bedtime snacks.
  • Raise your body and head while sleeping. This makes it harder for stomach fluid to flow backward into your throat.
  • Avoid lying down immediately after you eat. Instead, take a short walk after meals.

Lose weight. Being overweight is a leading cause of GERD, but even slight weight loss can significantly reduce or eliminate heartburn altogether.

Stop smoking. Here’s yet another reason to quit: Nicotine, the key drug in tobacco, relaxes the muscle in the lower esophagus so that it no longer acts as a shutoff valve. Consequently, stomach fluid can easily wash backward into the throat.

Read the side effects for all medicines you are currently taking. Many drugs increase the risk of heartburn, including sedatives, antibiotics, potassium, iron pills, and medications for high blood pressure, allergies, asthma, osteoporosis and urinary tract disorders. Over-the-counter drugs known to cause heartburn are aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen (Aleve).

Use drugs to neutralize stomach acid. Antacids of various brands are effective. Mineral supplements of magnesium, calcium, and aluminum salts all reduce acid. Other drugs, like Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid brands, are proton pump inhibitors, which means they block the production of stomach acid.

Consider an implant. A small ring of titanium beads can be implanted around the end of the esophagus to strengthen the valve and prevent reflux. Our doctors can implant the device during a a minimally invasive procedure that only takes 30 minutes.

Discuss surgery with your doctor. When all else fails, there are surgical procedures known to alleviate heartburn. Note that complications are common and many people must still take medicine for heartburn after surgery.

Explore your options at the USC Digestive Health Center.

Say goodbye to chronic heartburn for good by consulting with some of the country’s top specialists at the USC Digestive Health Center, a recognized leader in the care of gastrointestinal (GI) diseases. If you are in the Los Angeles area, be sure to schedule an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting http://digestive.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment/.

By Heidi Tyline King