The holidays are a wonderful time of year when family and friends can gather together and enjoy an abundant feast filled with our favorite foods. Certain habits, however, can cause some unwanted holiday heartburn.
While occasional heartburn is not typically a cause for concern, as billions of Americans experience heartburn at some point in their lives, heartburn that occurs more than twice weekly should not be taken lightly, as it could be an indicator of GERD. GERD stands for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease which is a disease of the digestive system.
Learn how to enjoy the holidays and all of the delicious foods while managing your acid reflux symptoms. Here are a few tips for you to take with you to the holiday dinner table:
- Limit beverage consumption while eating. Sometimes fluids, especially carbonated beverages, can cause more gas in the stomach when combined with food intake. Try to drink slowly after you are done eating.
- Monitor what you are eating and avoid foods that trigger acid reflux. Foods that have the worse effects on acid reflux are spicy, fatty, fried and citrus foods. Food and drinks that trigger GERD symptoms vary from person to person, so it is important to know your body and determine which are best for you.
- Limit or avoid alcohol. There are some people, however, who should avoid all alcohol consumption, as even the smallest amounts can cause acid reflux. Alcohol increases the production of stomach acids. Alcohol also relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscle that is in charge of keeping stomach contents from refluxing into the esophagus.
- Don’t over-eat. Ask for a smaller plate, take a small sample from each dish and choose “safe” foods that you’ve predetermined do not flare up your acid reflux symptoms. When you’re feeling tempted to overindulge, ask yourself “Is having that second helping of pumpkin pie worth the hours of pain and misery due to the acid reflux afterwards?”
- Chew slowly. Help your digestive system by chewing every bite slowly and thoroughly. Put your fork down in between bites to help remind yourself to go slow while eating.
- Wear loose clothing. Clothing which is tight especially around the mid-section can put extra pressure on the abdomen and increase acid reflux symptoms.
- Sit upright for several hours after you’ve eaten. Or better yet, take a leisurely family stroll around the neighborhood to help settle your stomach and aid digestion. Avoid any rigorous exercise, as it can upset the digestion process and cause reflux symptoms.
- Pass on the after-dinner coffee. For some, coffee can increase acid reflux and cause symptoms to flare up. Both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee have shown to aggravate GERD symptoms.
- Ditch all tobacco products. Tobacco, including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and pipe tobacco not only worsens GERD symptoms, but it can cause people to develop GERD. Like alcohol, tobacco weakens the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and increases stomach acids.
Also known as acid reflux disease, GERD is a progressive disease, which means that it worsens overtime, especially if it is not properly treated. The reflux of acids from the stomach damages the lining of the esophagus and can cause major health problems, including an increased risk of esophageal cancer. Speak to your doctor if you are experiencing frequent or chronic heartburn or if your acid reflux symptoms are worsening.