Non-Surgical Options for Acid Reflux

You may be able to control gastroesophageal reflux (GER) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) by:

  • Not overeating.

  • Not eating 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.

  • Quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke.

  • Losing weight if you are a person with heavy weight.

  • Taking over-the-counter medicines, such as Maalox, or Rolaids.

  • Not eating or drinking items that may cause GER, such as greasy or spicy foods and alcoholic drinks.
Non-surgical options for acid reflux

How do Doctors treat GERD?

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, medicines, non-surgical procedures, surgery, or a combination.

Benefits of Medical Treatment?

  • Relatively “lower” costs compared to other treatments.

  • No sedation, anesthesia, or incision is required.

Risks of Medical Treatment?

  • High risk of complications and progression to narrowing, ulcers, and cancer.

  • Costs more in the long run.

  • Acid reflux medications cause more complications with long-term use.

What are the Alternatives to Non-Surgical Options for Acid Reflux

Incisionless Therapy

The following procedures strengthen the EGV without incisions:

Surgical Procedures

The following procedures strengthen the EGV with small incisions:

Your doctor may recommend surgery if your GERD symptoms don’t improve with lifestyle changes or medicines. You’re more likely to develop complications from surgery than from medicines.

Fundoplication is the most common surgery for GERD. In most cases, it leads to long-term reflux control.

A surgeon performs fundoplication using a laparoscope, a thin tube with a tiny video camera. During the operation, a surgeon sews the top of your stomach around your esophagus to add pressure to the lower end of your esophagus and reduce reflux. The surgeon performs the operation at a hospital. You receive general anesthesia and can leave the hospital in 1 to 3 days. Most people return to their usual daily activities in 2 to 3 weeks.

Endoscopic techniques, such as endoscopic sewing and radiofrequency, help control GERD in a small number of people. Endoscopic sewing uses small stitches to tighten your sphincter muscle. Radiofrequency creates heat lesions, or sores, that help tighten your sphincter muscle. A surgeon performs both operations using an endoscope at a hospital or an outpatient center, and you receive general anesthesia.

The results for endoscopic techniques may not be as good as those for fundoplication. Doctors don’t use endoscopic techniques often.

Non-surgical options for acid reflux

Risks of Medical Therapy

Even though not everyone will experience these risks, it is important to note that medications prescribed for acid reflux have been noted to carry several risks such as dementia, stomach cancers, bowel infections, etc.

Long-term use of these medications is currently not recommended. 

Furthermore, the FDA now requires these medications to carry a black warning label.

Eating, Diet, Nutrition

How can your diet help prevent or relieve GER or GERD?

Changing your diet can prevent or relieve your symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux (GER) or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). You may need to avoid certain foods and drinks that worsen your symptoms. Other dietary changes that can help reduce your symptoms include:

  • Decreasing fatty foods.
  • Eating small, frequent meals instead of three large meals.

What should I avoid eating if I have GER or GERD?

Avoid eating or drinking the following items that may make GER or GERD worse:

  • Coffee.
  • Chocolate.
  • Peppermint.
  • Alcoholic Drinks.
  • Greasy or Spicy Food.
  • Tomatoes and Tomato Products.

What can I eat if I have GER or GERD?

Eating healthy and balanced amounts of different types of foods is good for your overall health. For more information about eating a balanced diet, visit ChooseMyPlate.

If you’re an individual with a higher body weight, talk with your doctor or a dietitian about dietary changes that can help you lose weight and decrease your GERD symptoms. (link to advanced weight loss center portal). For more information, visit GI.org and GERDhelp.com

Non-surgical options for acid reflux
Get an overview of potential underlying causes of digestive issues with our comprehensive GERD quiz.