Endless buffets, eggnog, and rich holiday foods can play havoc with heartburn. Here’s what to avoid, how to time eating, and what to do to combat acid reflux.
From November through early January, people with acid reflux can have a hard time.
Everyone brings leftover Halloween candy to work the first week of November, and soon enough it’s time for a big Thanksgiving feast. Immediately after Thanksgiving, holiday parties with colleagues and friends start. And it always seems as if the week between Christmas and New Year’s is a dieter’s nightmare, with all manner of great leftovers and holiday treats. If you suffer from acid reflux, you may feel like you’re navigating a gastronomic minefield for two months. But with some planning, knowledge, and effective medication, you can enjoy the holidays without acid reflux spoiling your holiday spirit.
Holiday Behaviors to Avoid
If you avoid overeating, keep coffee and other caffeinated drinks to a minimum, and curb alcohol consumption, you should have much less of a problem with acid reflux during the holiday season. When you eat too much at one time, the stomach becomes distended, and this often causes the esophageal sphincter to relax, aggravating reflux. Having a little snack before Thanksgiving dinner can help you avoid piling your plate too high once everyone’s gathered around the table, and this can help keep reflux under control.
Caffeine, particularly in carbonated drinks, can bring on acid reflux, or make existing acid reflux worse. If it’s fizz you want, carbonated water or ginger ale might be a good alternative, and if you need a caffeine fix, go for something non-carbonated and have just enough to stave off a headache and keep you alert. As for alcohol, you’ll want to take it easy on the eggnog. Additionally, both red and white wine are associated with increased reflux in people prone to it, so be sure to sip your glass of wine if you don’t want to forego it altogether.
Keeping Acid Reflux Triggers to a Minimum
Unfortunately, many holiday snacks contain ingredients that make acid reflux worse. Fatty foods are a big contributor to holiday heartburn, so choosing white meat, keeping gravy to a minimum, and going easy on the butter will help. Fried or spicy foods are also common heartburn triggers. The sausage balls someone brought to work may be delicious, but you should limit yourself to one or two. Step away from the snack table and eat them elsewhere to keep from grabbing a few more before going back to your cubicle. Citrus fruits are often ingredients in holiday punch, and if citrus makes your reflux worse, you’ll thank yourself later if you stick to water. Onions also cause problems for some reflux sufferers, and they’re commonly used in casseroles and stuffing, so keep portion sizes small to minimize this trigger.
Timing Is Crucial
The time of day when you eat is important too. Remember that gravity is your friend when it comes to acid reflux. If you typically settle down in your recliner in front of a football game on television after Thanksgiving dinner, consider taking a half-hour stroll around your neighborhood first. The closer to horizontal you are after eating, the less gravity can help you with your acid reflux. And while it may be incredibly tempting to grab another slice of pie or quick turkey sandwich before bed, you could be setting yourself up for an uncomfortable night. It’s best to stop eating three to four hours before bedtime.
Using Acid Reflux Medications Properly
Over-the-counter antacids can provide some relief fairly quickly, but they don’t provide long lasting relief from heartburn. Many people who deal with frequent acid reflux find longer term relief by taking the prescription drug Nexium. Esomeprazole, the active ingredient in Nexium, is what is known as a proton pump inhibitor. By inhibiting the activity of certain types of gastric cells, the medication cuts down on the formation of stomach acid and provides relief from reflux. Keep in mind, however, that Nexium isn’t like over-the-counter antacids, because you need to take Nexium regularly over several days for it to get acid production under control. But using Nexium as directed is one of the most effective things you can do to keep holiday acid reflux from dampening your enjoyment of the festivities.
The holiday season can be one of the most difficult times of the year for patients who have acid reflux. Not only are big celebration meals common, many favorite holiday foods happen to be ones that aggravate the problem. But by cutting down on trigger foods, caffeine, and alcohol, and timing your eating properly, you can minimize the effects of holiday foods. And taking a proton pump inhibitor like Nexium starting a few days before holiday parties begin, you can maximize your enjoyment of the season.
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