We all want to eat, drink and be merry with our families during the holidays. Who cares if we have that extra glass of wine or that “I wish I hadn’t eaten it” late night helping of pumpkin cheese cake? Besides weight gain, many of us experience acid reflux, the regurgitation of stomach acid into the esophagus. That slow burning feeling can make some people feel just plain bad, while others might feel like they are having a heart attack.
Dr. Jay Desai of New York Gastroenterology Associates in Manhattan shared his top tips with Mommybites on how to avoid holiday heart burn.
Avoid Large Meals.
When you eat a large meal, it can put pressure on the valve that keeps the food in the stomach and worsens acid reflux disease. During the holidays, eat smaller and more frequent meals. It will minimize acid reflux and make you feel more comfortable.
Avoid or minimize your intake of alcohol, coffee, carbonated beverages and citrus drinks.
Studies show that these drinks can loosen the muscle that keeps acid in the stomach and can increase acid reflux symptoms. Alcohol is probably the worse culprit. Water and non-acidic juices are the best choices to avoid acid reflux.
You don’t want to eat a large meal and then lie down on the couch. Stay upright and move around after a meal. When you lie down, gravity can push some of the acid into the esophagus.
Know your trigger foods.
Everyone has their trigger foods – know yours and avoid them. For example, if you eat chocolate and get that burning feeling, stay away from it.
Don’t eat late at night or before bedtime.
You absolutely want to avoid going to bed within three hours of eating. It can make acid reflux much worse. Allow three hours for your food to digest before bedtime.
Should you consider medication for minor heartburn?
If you know you are going to over-indulge and you have a history of heartburn, taking an OTC medication such as Zantac, half an hour before the meal, can be helpful. You can also take it after after a meal if you are having symptoms. Tums is also good to have on hand.
When to See a Doctor
When do you know if you need to see a doctor for your heartburn? What kind of tests would be performed and what kind of medications would potentially be prescribed?
If your symptoms persist more than just on special occasions, then you should see your doctor. He/she will be able to prescribe a stronger antacid medication and will determine if other testing is required – such as the BRAVO PH capsule. The doctor will take a detailed history and decide if you need a stronger medication or need testing.
And finally, everything in moderation!
In general, Dr. Desai recommends eating and drinking in moderation as the best way to prevent acid reflux. But if you are experiencing it often and have concerns, there are numerous therapies and he is happy to speak with you about them.
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Dr. Desai specializes in colonoscopy, upper endoscopy and consultative gastroenterology. He can be reached at New York Gastroenterology Associates (NYGA), 311 East 79th Street #2A, NY, NY 10075-212-996-6633.