High-calorie meals, decadent treats and festive drinks tempt people from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, inviting the fiery sensation of heartburn and the bitter taste of reflux as unwelcome guests to the holiday festivities.
Approximately 20 percent of Americans have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD. Gulchin Ergun, M.D., gastroenterologist at the Lynda K. and David M. Underwood Center for Digestive Disorders at Houston Methodist Hospital, explains how you can avoid this unpleasant sensation while partaking in holiday fun.
- Tight clothing – Our stomachs need room to digest food. Tight clothing, like skinny jeans and leggings, restricts the stomach from emptying properly. When that happens, acid builds up and you end up with reflux.
- Big meals – Instead of three big meals a day, eat four or five smaller portions throughout the day so your stomach has time to digest food. If you know you’re going to eat a big meal in one sitting, try to eat earlier than usual so you have time to digest properly.
- Alcohol – Not only is alcohol acidic, but when digested it creates even more acid in our stomachs. You add a lot of alcohol to a large, fatty holiday meal and you have a recipe for acid reflux.
- Skip the after-dinner mints – Peppermint relaxes the muscles between the stomach and esophagus, which can allow stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus. While reflux triggers vary from person to person, other common triggers include tomato-based products, citrus fruits and juices, spicy cuisine, high-fat foods, chocolate and caffeinated beverages.
- Chew gum – Chewing gum stimulates acid-neutralizing saliva production. The more you swallow, the more the saliva helps to clear acid from the esophagus.
- Take a short walk – While it’s tempting to lie down after indulging in a holiday feast, the best thing for preventing reflux is a post-meal walk to help gastric juices flow properly. Try to wait at least two hours after eating before lying down to allow time for food to go down.
To speak with Dr. Gulchin Ergun, please contact Gale Smith, Houston Methodist, at 281.627.0439 or [email protected]. For more information about Houston Methodist, visit houstonmethodist.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.