Reflux esophagitis (RE-flux ee-SOFF-ah-JIGH-tis) is commonly called “heartburn.” Heartburn occurs when the acid in your stomach backs up into your esophagus (ee-SOFF-ah-gus). The esophagus is the tube that leads from the throat to the stomach. It is sometimes called the food pipe. If stomach acid comes in contact with the sensitive lining of your food pipe, you may feel the pain of heartburn.
Usually, acid and other contents of the stomach remain in the stomach. Stomach acid may back up into your food pipe for several reasons. Eating too much, lying down flat, pressure on the abdomen from bending over, or a weak valve at the end of the food pipe may cause acid to back up.
- If you are overweight, you should lose weight.
- Avoid eating big meals. Eat a greater number of small meals during the day.
- Avoid food that is highly seasoned. Avoid food that is very hot or very cold.
- When eating, take small mouthfuls of food, chew it well, and eat slowly.
- Avoid alcohol, smoking, and coffee because they can irritate the food pipe.
- Avoid fat, chocolate, soft drinks, mints, chewing gum, and hard candies.
- Avoid medications that contain aspirin.
- Do not eat for three to four hours before you go to bed.
- Raise the head of your bed 4 to 6 inches. You can place cinder blocks, wood, or bricks under the legs at the head of the bed.
- Try sleeping on your right side.
- Do not wear clothing that fits tight across your waist, stomach, or abdomen. For example, you should not wear tight girdles, tight belts, and abdominal support belts.
- Avoid bending, stooping, and lifting heavy objects. Be very careful when gardening.
- Keep a relaxed mental attitude when performing your daily activities.
- Take your medications exactly as your doctor has prescribed.
- Tell any doctor who examines you that you are being treated for heartburn.
If You Have Questions
If you have any questions, write them in the space provided below. Call your doctor or the lab at the telephone numbers listed.
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Reviewed April 2011