Handling Heartburn During the Holidays

GERD Awareness Week recognized during Thanksgiving to help ease heartburn and acid reflux

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) During the holidays, there's plenty to consider, especially when it comes to planning meals and get-togethers. With all those meals, another major concern for some might be how to avoid heartburn.

For patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), certain foods and big meals common to the holidays can trigger unpleasant symptoms.

To bring about awareness of the condition as well as ways to ease the discomfort, GERD Awareness Week is being recognized November 24 through November 30.

"Use smaller plates to help control portion size."

"Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic digestive disease that occurs when stomach acid or, occasionally, bile flows back (refluxes) into your food pipe (esophagus)," the Mayo Clinic explains. "The backwash of acid irritates the lining of your esophagus and causes GERD signs and symptoms."

Common symptoms of GERD are heartburn (a burning feeling in the chest, sometimes with a sour taste in the mouth), chest pain, the feeling of having a lump in the throat, problems swallowing and acid reflux (regurgitation of liquid or food matter).

Though many people may occasionally experience these symptoms, the situation is considered GERD when symptoms are severe enough to interfere with daily life and happen at least twice a week, says the Mayo Clinic.

Every patient with GERD has unique triggering foods or drinks that aggravate symptoms, but the Mayo Clinic reports that some triggers are shared by many patients. Common triggers include mint, chocolate, fatty or fried foods, alcohol, caffeine and tomato sauce.

The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), organizers behind this awareness week, reported that the timing of GERD Awareness Week — during the week of Thanksgiving — was not accidental.

It is not uncommon for symptoms like heartburn to arise during holiday feasts, so the IFFGD has offered a few suggestions for reducing GERD symptoms during this holiday season, including going light on the seasonings.

"Spicy foods, as well as things like onions and garlic, often bother people with GERD and make heartburn worse," IFFGD explained.

Other suggestions are to plan an earlier meal, as eating late at night can be hard on GERD patients, and to try to avoid that post-dinner nap.

"While the turkey might make you sleepy, fight the urge to take a nap," said IFFGD. "Lying down within 3 hours after eating can cause GERD symptoms to flare up."

IFFGD also recommended staying active through the holidays, as weight loss can ease GERD troubles, but to hold off right after a big meal, as exercise at this time can lead to reflux.

This year marks the 15th annual observance of GERD Awareness Week. The IFFGD urged the public to talk to a doctor if they have symptoms of GERD to both receive a proper diagnosis and develop a personal treatment plan.

Review Date: 
November 21, 2013
Last Updated:
December 30, 2013