Millions of people suffer from occasional episodes of acid reflux. This occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) located at the end of the esophagus, opens spontaneously or does not close properly for some reason and digestive juices-called acids-rise up with partially digested food into the esophagus. The result can be that you taste food or liquid in the back of your mouth (acid reflux). When the partially digested stomach contents reach the lining of the esophagus a burning sensation in the chest or throat known as heartburn or acid indigestion can occur.

If this becomes chronic, occurring more than twice a week, it is usually considered the more serious form of the disease called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). While there are many over-the-counter antacid medications on the market that neutralize the acids in the stomach and offer relief for mild bouts of GERD, they can also carry some unwanted side effects such as diarrhea, constipation, loss of calcium and in rare instances, put you at greater risk for kidney stones. There is also some concern that long-term acid suppression may cause serious complications in sufferers with peptic ulcers.

If you're taking over-the-counter or prescription medications and your GERD symptoms persist, ask your doctor if an alternative to medication such as lifestyle changes, for example, losing weight and quitting smoking, could improve your condition. Here are a few more suggestions that could help:

  • Determine which foods and beverages aggravate your acid reflux and avoid them. Also, limit your intake of citrus fruits, chocolate, caffeinated and carbonated drinks, alcohol, fatty and fried foods, garlic and onions, mint flavorings, spicy and tomato-based foods and processed foods

  • Eat small, frequent meals

  • Include more foods in your diet with a high alkali presence to reduce the amount of acid in your stomach, such as milk and dark, leafy vegetables like broccoli and spinach

  • Wear loose-fitting clothing to avoid pressure on your stomach

  • Avoid lying down for three hours after a meal

  • Elevating the head of your bed between six and eight inches by using wood blocks under the bedposts may also provide relief (just stacking pillows under your head isn't effective

  • Avoid eating two to three hours before bedtime