How To Treat Your Teen's Acid Reflux

Use these 8 ways to help your teen ease his heartburn

teen eating with stomach pain
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GERD is becoming an increasing problem in teenagers, due in part, perhaps, to an increase in the consumption of fast food, which tends to be greasy and fatty, as well as the rate of obesity. If you suspect your teen is suffering from acid reflux, it is important that he or she sees a doctor. Your teen's doctor will be able to determine if a diagnosis of GERD is appropriate, and all other disorders with similar symptoms have been excluded.

The severity of their GERD symptoms will determine their treatment. Here are 8 ways you can help your teen can lessen the severity of their heartburn symptoms.

1. Advocate smaller, more frequent meals

Encourage your teens to cut down the size of their meals by explaining to them that large meals expand the stomach and can increase upward pressure against the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which causes heartburn. Because they are growing they may feel hungry when they scale their portion sizes back, if this is the case, remind them they can eat more often but they don't want to eat until full.

2. Discuss acid-stimulating foods and beverages

Heartburn can be triggered by foods. Help your teen become familiar with these triggers. Also, try to keep common trigger foods, like the ones listed below, out of the house so that they don't be tempted and end up in pain.  

  • Citrus fruits
  • Citrus juices
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
  • Tomatoes and tomato-based products
  • Caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and energy drinks
  • Carbonated beverages, such as colas

To help your teen avoid these foods while at school, you can try these tips for packing his school lunches.

3. Have them eat two or three hours before bedtime

Late night snacking may be your child's bedtime ritual, but if they suffer from GERD, it can make for a painful, uncomfortable night's sleep.

Try to dissuade your teen from eating during the 2- to 3-hour window before they go to bed.

Explain that gravity helps keep the stomach juices from backing up in to the esophagus and assists the flow of food and digestive juices from the stomach to the intestines. If they go to sleep before their food has digested, they don't get to take advantage of gravity's forces.

4. Elevate your teen's head while he sleeps

Lying down flat presses the stomach's contents against the LES. With the head higher than the stomach, gravity helps reduce this pressure. Ask your teen's doctor how high to elevate the head. The doctor may suggest using a wedge pillow to elevate your teen's head while sleeping.

5. Encourage loose-fitting clothes 

This might be difficult because trends and fashion dictate what your teen may wear; however, if you talk to him or her about how dressing for comfort can ease their heartburn, it may be easier. Talk to them about how when clothing fits tightly around the abdomen, it squeezes the stomach, forcing food up against the LES and causing food to reflux in to the esophagus.

Clothing that can cause problems, include tight-fitting belts, tight-waisted jeans and slenderizing garments.

6. Keep a heartburn record

Have your teen record when he experiences heartburn symptoms, what foods were consumed or what activity he was doing before the heartburn occurred. The severity of each heartburn episode and what gave him relief should also be noted. Have your teen bring this information to his or her doctor, so modifications can be made to diet, activity or medications, if needed. To get you started, you can use this heartburn record.

7. Take Antacids

Antacids neutralize stomach acid. A doctor may recommend the occasional use of antacids.

8. Use heartburn medications, if all else fails.

If your teen makes all the lifestyle changes, he or she can but the symptoms don't go away. Then, it might be time to discuss the use of stronger heartburn medications. There are two types that the doctor may suggest:

  • Acid blockers, also known as H2 blockers, block acid production in the stomach. Your teen's doctor many prescribe a H2 blocker if lifestyle modifications don't sufficiently prevent symptoms. H2 blockers include Tagamet, Pepcid, Zantac and Axid.
  • Acid suppressors, also known as Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs), completely block acid production in the stomach. Your teen's doctor may prescribe a PPI if lifestyle modifications or other medications do not sufficiently control reflux symptoms. PPIs include Prilosec, Prevacid, Nexium, Aciphex and Protonix. However, long-term use of these drugs are associated with kidney disease, heart attack, and bone fractures, so discuss these side effects with your teen's physician.



"Gastroesophageal Reflux in Children and Adolescents." NIH Publication No. 06–5418 August 2006. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). 29 Dec 2008.

"Heartburn, Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER), and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)." NIH Publication No. 07–0882 May 2007. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). 18 Mar 2008.

Marsha Kay, M.D., Vasundhara Tolia, M.D.. "COMMON GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS IN PEDIATRIC PATIENTS." American College of Gastroenterology. 18 Mar 2008.

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