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Dietary & lifestyle advice for adults with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD)

Patient information A-Z

This information is for those with GORD, heartburn, acid reflux, indigestion or dyspepsia

What is GORD?

GORD is caused by the stomach acid coming back up into the oesophagus. Often it occurs due to a weakening of the ring of muscle (sphincter) at the bottom of the oesophagus. It may be an occasional problem or for some, a severe, lifelong problem.

An anatomical diagram showing the process of a acid reflux inside the stomach.

What are the symptoms of GORD?

  • Heartburn (uncomfortable burning sensation just below the breast-bone/between the shoulder blades that often occurs after eating).
  • Acid reflux (stomach acid comes back into the mouth and causes an unpleasant taste).
  • Bad breath.
  • Oesophagitis (sore inflamed oesophagus).
  • Belching.
  • Nausea or being sick.
  • Difficulty swallowing.

General advice

Your GP or doctor can diagnose GORD. Over the counter medications are available, ask your pharmacist for a recommendation or your GP/doctor may prescribe specific medications. In some cases surgery may be required. It is important to remember that your oesophagus and throat take time to heal so allow four to six weeks of treatment before expecting full relief of your reflux symptoms.

Self-help measures

There are some steps you can take that may help with symptoms. These include:

  • Eating smaller, balanced meals at regular intervals and avoiding large drinks with meals.
  • Try not to miss meals.
  • Avoid eating late at night and ideally eat your evening meal three to four hours before going to bed.
  • Avoid eating on the go and aim to relax at mealtimes.
  • Sit up when eating and avoid sitting in a low chair with a tray on your lap.
  • Avoiding bending, lifting or lying down straight after meals
  • Wear loose clothing rather than tight waist bands and belts.
  • Aim to maintain a healthy weight and reduce weight if overweight.
  • Stop smoking and reduce/avoid alcohol.
  • Sleep in a semi-upright position or with the head of the bed raised a few inches to help to prevent night time symptoms of reflux.
  • Make time to relax and try to avoid/minimise stressful situations, psychological therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy and psychotherapy, may help.

Food triggers

The following foods may worsen symptoms:

  • Tea or coffee (including decaf)
  • Carbonated (Fizzy) drinks
  • Alcohol
  • Citrus fruits and juices such as orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime
  • Tomatoes and tomato based foods such as pasta sauces and tomato juice
  • Spicy foods
  • Garlic and foods containing garlic
  • Rich/fried/fatty/greasy foods, for example, pastry, creamy sauces, rich desserts, fried batter
  • Onion and foods containing onion
  • Peppermint/mints
  • Chocolate
  • Vinegar
  • Very salty, crispy foods as these may increase the irritation already caused by the reflux.
  • Cucumber

If you feel specific foods trigger/worsen your symptoms you may wish to reduce or avoid eating them.

Where can I find more information?

Please contact your dietitian if you require further advice:

Dietitian _____________________________________________________

Contact number: 01223 216655

Contact email ___________________________________________________
(An email consent form must be completed to enable Addenbrooke’s staff to contact patients by email).

We are smoke-free

Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.

Other formats

Help accessing this information in other formats is available. To find out more about the services we provide, please visit our patient information help page (see link below) or telephone 01223 256998.

Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151