10. Consider Eating Less Chocolate
GERD patients are sometimes advised to avoid or limit their consumption of chocolate. However, the evidence for this recommendation is weak.
One small, uncontrolled study showed that consuming 4 ounces (120 ml) of chocolate syrup weakened the lower esophageal sphincter (45).
Another controlled study found that drinking a chocolate beverage increased the amount of acid in the esophagus, compared to a placebo (46).
Nevertheless, further studies are needed before any strong conclusions can be made about the effects of chocolate on reflux symptoms.
11. Avoid Mint, If Needed
Peppermint and spearmint are common herbs used to flavor foods, candy, chewing gum, mouthwash and toothpaste.
They are also popular ingredients in herbal teas.
One controlled study of patients with GERD found no evidence for the effects of spearmint on the lower esophageal sphincter.
Yet, the study showed that high doses of spearmint may worsen acid reflux symptoms, presumably by irritating the inside of the esophagus (47).
If you feel like mint makes your heartburn worse, then avoid it.
12. Elevate the Head of Your Bed
Some people suffer from reflux symptoms during the night (48).
This may disrupt their sleep quality and make it difficult for them to fall asleep.
One study showed that patients who raised the head of their bed had significantly fewer reflux episodes and symptoms, compared to those who slept without any elevation (49).
Additionally, an analysis of controlled studies concluded that elevating the head of the bed is an effective strategy to reduce acid reflux symptoms and heartburn at night (10).
13. Don’t Eat Within Three Hours of Going to Bed
People with acid reflux are generally advised to avoid eating within the three hours before they go to sleep.
Although this recommendation makes sense, there is limited evidence to back it up.
One study in GERD patients showed that having a late evening meal had no effects on acid reflux, compared to having a meal before 7 p.m. (50).
However, an observational study found that eating close to bedtime was associated with significantly greater reflux symptoms when people were going to sleep (51).
More studies are needed before solid conclusions can be made about the effect of late evening meals on GERD. It may also depend on the individual.
14. Don’t Sleep on Your Right Side
Several studies show that sleeping on your right side may worsen reflux symptoms at night (52, 53, 54).
The reason is not entirely clear, but is possibly explained by anatomy.
The esophagus enters the right side of the stomach. As a result, the lower esophageal sphincter sits above the level of stomach acid when you sleep on your left side (55).
When you lay on your right side, stomach acid covers the lower esophageal sphincter. This increases the risk of acid leaking through it and causing reflux.
Obviously, this recommendation may not be practical, since most people change their position while they sleep.
Yet resting on your left side might make you more comfortable as you fall asleep.
The Bottom Line
Some scientists claim that dietary factors are a major underlying cause of acid reflux.
While this might be true, more research is needed to substantiate these claims.
Nevertheless, studies show that simple dietary and lifestyle changes can significantly ease heartburn and other acid reflux symptoms.