Pie, gravy, potatoes, cookies — many of the foods traditionally served at holiday meals are also some of the hardest to digest. Unpleasant heartburn symptoms can put a damper on your holiday celebrations.
For the more than 40 million Americans who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, these symptoms are even more serious. GERD is a severe form of heartburn that occurs when stomach contents, including acid or bile, wash back into the esophagus.
The acid can erode the lining of the esophagus, which not only causes discomfort, but can also lead to serious complications. People age 40 and older are most at risk, but acid reflux can really affect anyone — from infants to adults.
GERD symptoms are different for everyone, but the most common symptom is a burning feeling in the chest behind the breastbone after eating. Other symptoms include:
- Frequent and severe heartburn (two or more episodes a week)
- Trouble swallowing
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or a chronic cough
Choosing the right foods
Avoiding foods and drinks that trigger acid reflux is a good first step to controlling GERD. This holiday season, stick to the following guidelines.
- Avoid: Spicy foods, fatty and fried foods, chocolate, peppermint, citrus foods, mustard and tomato products
- Drinks: Best to opt for water and steer clear of alcohol, caffeine and sodas
- Turkey meat: Choose light meat rather than dark meat, which contains more fat and oils that exacerbate symptoms
- Desserts: Stick with low-calorie options and avoid chocolate, if possible
- Portions matter: Pay attention to portion sizes. Instead of making a huge plate, eat in smaller quantities throughout the day
- Ditch the post-meal nap: Sleeping right after eating can increase GERD symptoms. Instead of falling asleep, try going for a walk
- Improve lifestyle choices: Stop smoking, exercise and reduce your stress if possible
Remember these tips as we embark on the holiday season. These healthy choices can help you feel better and make a positive difference in your health.
If you are experiencing symptoms of GERD, there are many treatment options, including lifestyle modifications, medications and surgery. Talk with your doctor about what’s right for you, or find out more.