Holiday Heartburn: Eat and drink in moderation through the holidays to avoid heartburn
Itís no surprise that many people find themselves suffering from heartburn during the holidays. During this time of year we tend to consume more of the foods and beverages that cause this discomfort. Heartburn can be avoided by knowing what may bring it on.
Many times, heartburn and acid reflux are used interchangeably. However, heartburn is the symptom you feel caused by acid reflux. Heartburn is a burning discomfort from the chest area up the throat. It actually has nothing to do with your heart. At the entrance to your stomach is a muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). During normal digestion, the lower esophageal sphincter closes after food passes through it. If the lower esophageal sphincter doesn't close all the way or if it opens too often, acid produced by your stomach can move up into your esophagus. This can cause heartburn. If you experience symptoms regularly (more than twice a week), you have acid reflux disease, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Certain foods or drinks can trigger heartburn either by weakening the lower esophageal muscle or overfilling the stomach when you recline. Keep these tips in mind especially during the holidays.
- Too much food can trigger heartburn. No matter what food you choose to eat, if you eat too much of it you can get heartburn. During the holidays, we often spend long amounts of time sitting with friends and family while eating lots of food in one sitting. Although delicious, that food may end up hurting you in the end. Keep an eye on your portions while eating.
- Eating too quickly can also cause heartburn. The holidays bring about stress and busy shopping schedules. Sometimes, you need to grab food and go. However, this can cause reflux symptoms and impede your plans. Take time to have a meal at home instead of being so rushed. Those sales arenít going anywhere!
- During the holidays we often overindulge in high-fat foods (rich desserts, marbled meats, rich sauces). High fat foods stay in the stomach longer and can cause discomfort. They are also not good for your overall health. So, try and cut back on fat by preparing your foods differently. Try to bake, broil or grill food rather than frying it, for example. Also, choose the reduced fat cheese, fat free milk and sour cream, and reduced fat mayonnaise instead.
- Acidic foods can trigger heartburn. Foods like tomatoes (pasta sauce), salsa, fruits and vinegar (think salad dressing), especially when eaten on an empty stomach, can cause discomfort. Limit your intake of acidic foods and balance them with other neutralizing foods.
- The spicier the better? This is not always the case, especially when talking about heartburn. Some people do have a love for spicy foods, but extra spices can lead to heartburn. Even spices like pepper, garlic and onion can exacerbate symptoms. Try other ways to flavor foods or donít make them quite so hot. Try mild buffalo wings instead of medium or hot. Limit the amount of pepper and other spices you add to food while cooking and eating.
- A huge spread of desserts on a table during the holidays is always tempting. Remember that chocolate contains caffeine and may trigger heartburn. Also, donít overindulge on the sweets because that too can cause a full stomach and lead to discomfort. Try sampling the desserts and donít eat until you are uncomfortably stuffed.
- Alcohol is often flowing over the holidays. Whether champagne, eggnog, wine or mixed drinks, alcohol relaxes the LES. We also tend to drink more soda, coffees and tea than usual during the holidays and this also encourages reflux. Caffeine increases acid in the stomach. Soda can cause bloating in the stomach that can lead to heartburn. Coffee, including decaf, caffeinated tea and cola drinks, carbonated beverages can all trigger symptoms. Try and choose noncarbonated and decaf beverages, like herbal teas or skim milk. Water is probably your best bet, as it helps with the acid in your stomach. If you canít do without your soda or coffee, just try to limit your intake.
- We tend to eat and drink large amounts of food and liquid late in the evening at holiday parties. Although you may be tempted to rest after a big meal, try not to lay down immediately after eating or eat immediately before bed to avoid heartburn. Stop eating at least 3 hours before bed.
The holidays are a time of leisure. In order to enjoy time with your family and friends, make sure to choose your foods wisely so you arenít affected by heartburn. Remember to pace yourself. If you have a three course meal planned, make sure to rest in between the meals and donít eat too much during one sitting. You donít have to eat until you are stuffed beyond comfort. Stop eating when you are no longer hungry. Limit the foods that tend to negatively affect your digestion. Try chewing fruit-flavored gum 30 to 60 minutes after a meal. Saliva neutralizes acid in the stomach and helps with digestion.
Avoid or limit the foods and beverages that cause you discomfort. Having heartburn every once in a while is normal. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising can help digestion and your health overall. If you regularly experience symptoms of acid reflux you should talk to your doctor about prevention and treatment options.
Have a safe and heartburn free holiday season.
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