How to get rid of heartburn can require some trial and error. For this RefluxMD member, her PPI medications were not working, so she tried diet and lifestyle changes hoping for relief. When that failed, she reached out to RefluxMD. As we looked closer at her question, two things jumped out at us. First, her symptoms indicated the potential for advanced disease progression, suggesting professional intervention. Second, we noticed that some of her diet and lifestyle changes required some tweaking to be effective. If you are having difficulty finding your path to relief, you may learn something from our response.
“How long should I take my PPI medication to say that the medication has failed? I eat only rice, some steamed vegetables, and a piece of grilled tuna with a pinch of salt. I eat two large meals, lunch and dinner, and in between I eat bananas and dates. I also drink chamomile tea and Evian water during the day. I sleep with three good pillows under my head, but even with those changes in place for 30 days, there is still no change. All this, and I’m still getting terrible heartburn! What should I do? I’m worried about the feeling that there is a lump in my throat and chest, as if I haven’t swallowed my food properly or my food is running up and down my esophagus, please help!”
Thank you for sharing your efforts to manage your GERD symptoms as well as your questions. Your comment about the feeling of a lump in your throat and difficulty swallowing are considered “alert symptoms” and suggest the potential for disease progression. Without diagnostic testing, we cannot be certain as to the cause of these two symptoms, but you should discuss them with a GERD expert as soon as possible. We have several articles about these symptoms that you may find interesting as well:
How to get rid of heartburn with diet and lifestyle changes
Every week there is an article in the local newspaper with ideas on how to make diet and lifestyle changes to reduce the symptoms of acid reflux disease. However, these articles are always short and provide little guidance on how to properly make these changes. This was one of the main reasons we wrote RefluxMD’s Recipe for Relief – to provide very specific information on this chronic condition as well as detailed instructions on how to implement diet and lifestyle changes. Here are some of our concerns based upon your question to us.
Lack of balance in your diet.
You wrote the following: “I eat only rice, some steamed vegetables, and a piece of grilled tuna with a pinch of salt.” We think these are excellent foods, but not on a routine basis. Our diet program is based upon the top ranked diet today, the DASH diet, which targets a balance of fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, dairy, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. We encourage you to take a more balanced approach to your eating while avoiding known GERD trigger foods. Here are two good references on the DASH diet you may find interesting:
Meals are too large and too few.
You mentioned the following in your question to us: “I eat two large meals, lunch and dinner, and in between I eat bananas and dates.” The DASH diet, and RefluxMD’s diet plan both encourage three small primary meals daily. Breakfast is very important and should be included in your diet program. Try to avoid any large portions or large meals since they can distend your stomach putting more pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter. This pressure can result in more GERD symptoms. Continue to eat snacks between these meals since they help you to avoid feeling over-hungry, which can lead to overeating.
Elevation therapy for GERD.
You indicated the following: “I sleep with three good pillows under my head.” We agree with the concept of elevation therapy, however adding more pillows may not be effective. You may only be raising your head with little impact on your stomach and esophagus. Effective elevation therapy requires that the head of the bed be raised relative to the foot of the bed, allowing gravity to keep stomach contents where they belong. We have several articles on elevation therapy you may find interesting:
Your next steps to find relief and good health
First and most importantly, you should see a GERD expert for a complete diagnostic work up. It is important to determine the underlying cause of your swallowing/lump-in-the-throat feeling problems and, if GERD is the cause, to determine that it has not progressed to complications such as Barrett’s esophagus.
Second, develop a complete plan to manage your BMI (if that is an issue), along with your diet and lifestyle. There are several things you can do, but be very careful about doing the right things. As you can see from the links we have shared above, there are many short articles on our website that can assist you in your search for relief and good health.
Third, if medications, diet, weight management, and lifestyle changes do not result in satisfactory symptom reduction, we encourage you to consider speaking with a GERD expert to discuss antireflux surgery. For many, this is the only means to a full recovery and to live a normal life.
I hope this helps
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