Medication and lifestyle changes are often the first line of defense in treating GERD and heartburn, but when they don’t bring relief, surgery is an option.

  • Fundoplication. This is the most common surgery for GERD. By wrapping the upper part of the stomach around the LES, the sphincter is strengthened and better able to prevent stomach acid from refluxing. Fundoplication can be performed with a laparoscope (where instruments and a camera are inserted through small incisions in the abdomen), which is less invasive than standard (open or Nissen’s) fundoplication and allows for shorter hospitals stays and quicker recovery.
  • Endoscopic surgery. These techniques use an endoscope—an instrument inserted directly into an organ (in this case, the esophagus), which is used to examine that organ. Long-term effects of endoscopic surgery are not known. Techniques include the Bard EndoCinch system, NDO Plicator, and the Stretta system. Each is intended to strengthen the LES.


Certain behaviors and foods may increase your risk of developing GERD and heartburn. Obesity and smoking are risk factors, and pregnant women should know that they may also experience GERD. If you suffer from any degree or frequency of heartburn, consider avoiding the following foods, as controlling symptoms through dietary choices may keep GERD from worsening:

  • Spicy foods
  • Mint flavors
  • Tomato-based foods
  • Garlic and onions
  • Citrus fruits
  • Caffeinated or alcoholic beverages
  • Chocolate

Lifestyle Changes and Management Tips

In addition to avoiding the foods listed above, lifestyle changes can also help you prevent GERD from occurring or manage your symptoms. If you smoke, quitting may improve GERD and heartburn as well as a number of health issues and may reduce your risk of certain cancers. If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight may also help. Try eating smaller, frequent meals, wearing loose-fitting closes, and try not to lie down for three hours after a meal. Some people also find that raising their head in bed by 6 to 8 inches (using wood blocks) also helps control heartburn.


American College of Gastroenterology

American Gastroenterological Association

International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders


Heartburn, Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER), and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse Web site (a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health). Accessed April 2010.