Q & A Library
Putting Heartburn to Bed?
I am buying a new bed and would like to know if it would be beneficial for my acid reflux to buy an adjustable bed to elevate my upper body, or do I need to elevate just my head six inches (not the upper half of the bed)?
Answer (Published 10/14/2004)
Almost everyone occasionally experiences acid reflux, the backflow of acid from the stomach into the esophagus. This usually occurs after eating and often brings on heartburn, an uncomfortable burning sensation behind the breastbone. When reflux is frequent and severe enough to damage the esophagus or interfere with normal activities, it is called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Elevating the upper body - not just the head - when you're in bed can help relieve the symptoms, but while it can help, it shouldn't be the main treatment for GERD. The approach I recommend begins with deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL), a remedy extracted from licorice root. (Whole licorice can increase blood pressure; no such effect occurs with DGL). You can buy DGL in powder or tablet form. The easiest way to take it is to chew two tablets slowly before every meal or in between meals, or take one-half teaspoon of the powder before meals. You can continue to take DGL as long as you have symptoms. I also suggest visualization as a mind-body technique to help manage GERD symptoms. The following lifestyle changes can help prevent problems before they start:
Andrew Weil, M.D.
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