Many of the foods traditionally served at holiday meals are also some of the hardest to digest. Turkey, gravy, potatoes, and pie are just a few of the foods that provoke unpleasant symptoms of heartburn.
For more than 40 million Americans who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, these symptoms are even more serious, especially during the holidays.
Michael Babineaux and Jason Welch, gastroenterology physicians at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Marble Falls, describe GERD as a severe form of heartburn 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 also can lead to serious complications,” Babineaux said.
“People age 40 and older are most at risk, but acid reflux can really affect anyone — infants to adults,” Welch added.
According to both doctors, GERD symptoms are different for everyone, but one 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)
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.
During this time of year, doctors suggest the following to have a more enjoyable holiday.
Avoid: spicy foods, fatty and fried foods, chocolate, peppermint, citrus foods, and 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 that contains more fat and oils, which exacerbate symptoms.
Desserts: Stick with low-calorie 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: Exercise, reduce your stress if possible, and stop smoking.
All of these healthy choices can help make a positive difference in your health.
WHAT TREATMENTS ARE AVAILABLE?
There are many treatment options for those living with GERD. They include lifestyle modifications, medications, and surgery. Talk with your doctor about what’s right for you.