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Managing GERD symptoms, day and night

Ever notice that your GERD flares up at night? Dr. Max Pitman knows that what you do during the day matters for getting a good night’s rest.

Published:

November 11, 2022

Written by:

KT Heins-Nagamoto

Managing Editor

Medically Reviewed by:

Dr. Max Pitman

Board-certified Gastroenterologist

Published:

November 11, 2022

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Coughing, chronic heartburn, acid reflux, chest pain… if these symptoms are keeping you up at night, you’re not alone–It’s very common to experience the symptoms of GERD more when you’re trying to sleep. But why? And more importantly, how can you make it stop? Turns out, if you can be mindful of your habits during your 9-to-5, then your 5-to-9 will go more smoothly before you fall asleep. 

A quick recap: What is gastroesophageal reflux disease? 

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease is a chronic disease impacting your digestive system, and occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus (your food tube if you will). This acid reflux irritates the lining of your esophagus. 

So to clarify, the mechanical and physiological process of your acid flowing back into your esophagus? That’s acid reflux. GERD is the frequent or chronic experience of acid reflux symptoms like heartburn. 

Some other symptoms of GERD include:

  • Regurgitation, tasting acid or a metallic taste in your mouth 
  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing, feeling like there’s a lump in your throat
  • Sore or irritated throat 
  • Chest discomfort a burning sensation in the chest, particularly after meals Chronic coughing or hoarse voice

Temporary symptoms of GERD can also take a toll on one’s long-term health and quality of life, impacting your blood pressure, chances of diabetes, but also your mood, memory, anxiety, and mental health. 

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Why do GERD symptoms get worse at night?

Love spicy food? Eating out late? Eating large meals rather than snacking? What about eating on the couch in front of the TV? (I mean who doesn’t?) All of these daily eating habits could set you up for a rough night of reflux symptoms and other common symptoms of GERD at night. 

There are also other reasons as to why your GERD might flare-up during sleep that are less about healthy habits and more about how your body is functioning. For example, people with sleep apnea might be more likely to experience GERD. 

Salvo Health’s leading gastroenterologist and Medical Director, Dr. Max Pitman provided a detailed explanation of what happens to your digestion at night for Forbes“When you lie down to sleep—or even if you recline on the couch right after dinner—gravity is no longer on your side and the acid from your stomach can more easily escape up into the esophagus.” 

Wondering to yourself, “How do I fight gravity?” The goal is to adopt a few healthier habits for your daytime hours that will ideally prevent disaster in the evening. 

How do I relieve symptoms at night? 

There are a lot of natural remedies, prescriptions, and lifestyle changes that you can use to manage GERD, both during the day and at night. And by treating your GERD seriously during the day, you can prevent painful symptoms in the evening. 

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell what’s causing your GERD without a doctor and coach identifying the potential triggers for you. At Salvo Health, our doctors and health coaches use our signature model of care Whole Self Science, to learn more about your specific experience with GERD and address all possible lifestyle factors that could be contributing to symptoms. Then they help you make positive changes to reduce symptoms and feel better through a custom care plan and by being available via our messenger app.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to identify reasons why your chronic acid reflux is worse at night:

  • Do I walk or move after big meals? Or am I stationary, lying down, or hitting the couch?
  • Am I eating to satiety or past the point of satiety frequently?
  • Am I eating mindfully? Slowly and sitting upright?
  • Am I eating more at night than during the day?
  • Am I eating spicy or greasy food more often than vegetables or fruits? Do I drink caffeinated beverages or alcohol frequently? 
  • Am I eating right before bedtime? And can I potentially eat dinner earlier? Dr. Pitman advises, “If it’s possible, leaving three hours between your last meal and climbing into bed can give your stomach a head start on digesting.” 

By answering these questions about how you’re eating and moving throughout the day, it might help you identify some patterns of daily behavior that might not be helping you sleep peacefully at night. For example, if you find yourself often eating on the go, quickly and lightly throughout the day, then eating a big meal right before bed, you might consider changing your schedule slightly to afford you more time to eat mindfully. 

Get more insights on eating, sleeping, and treating GERD from Dr. Pitman at Forbes 

Can GERD be cured with treatment or medication? 

“We get asked this question from members a lot, and while there’s no quick cure for this chronic condition, you can live uninterrupted by GERD symptoms with proper treatment.” Dr. Pitman says, adding that if you’re treating your GERD symptoms with antacids or Tums, you might consider these solutions short-term, while adjusting one’s habits matters more in the long run. “It is safe to take tums every day for up to two weeks, as long as you stick to the recommended dosing on the bottle, but if you find yourself needing tums every day, you should see a doctor to discuss your GERD symptoms and find out exactly what’s going on.”

Read the latest from Dr. Pitman regarding self-medicating with Tums in Parade Magazine

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Here’s how a Salvo Health doctor can help:

  • First thing’s first – we listen first, then ask questions. We want to know about your specific symptoms so we can get you a specific diagnosis.
  • We determine if your symptoms can be treated with lifestyle measures and over the counter medications, or if you might need a stronger prescription medication.
  • We ask questions about your nutrition, movement, sleep, and lifestyle, to determine what might trigger your symptoms. 
  • Your doctor and health coach can then help you track symptoms as you change your habits to determine what’s working and what isn’t working for you.

To start your GERD treatment with Salvo Health, take our assessment today

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Written by:

KT Heins-Nagamoto

Managing Editor

References: