Anyone who suffers occasionally from heartburn or acid reflux - and especially for those who suffer chronically - here are a few holiday mainstays to approach with caution.
For anyone who suffers from heartburn or acid reflux, the Christmas holidays can be a minefield of tempting, but incendiary treats that can tempt with their cheery goodness, but can wreak holy havoc later.
What is heartburn?
The name’s a misnomer: it actually has nothing to do with the heart. Most people feel the “burn” in the chest area, hence the common term. In reality the burning pain is brought on as a result of stomach acid backing up into the esophagus. The episodes can be brought on by pregnancy, obesity, certain foods, alcohol, and some medications.
Is acid reflux different?
Well, actually, yes, though someone with acid reflux (or gastroesophageal reflux) often has heartburn as a symptom. Many with acid reflux, though, don’t get heartburn. Instead, they may suffer from a dry cough, asthma symptoms, or have trouble swallowing. The same triggers for heartburn are the culprits here, too.
Avoiding the burn
Some of these tips are obvious, especially for those who’ve battled the burn before, but a refresher before engagement is always a good strategy.
Pass on seconds … and thirds …
This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s an especially tough strategy to pull off at the holiday dinner table. Eating too much, though, can increase stomach pressure which can then cause acidic stomach contents to reach back into the esophagus.
Look for appies
Choosing carefully from the hors d’oeuvres options can help you avoid the temptation of piling your plate high at the dinner table. Look for light options such as prawns, salmon, and other protein-rich, but volume-light offerings. Dip lightly with the celery and baby carrots.
Avoid the fat bombs
Yes, we know: lower fat can be a rare commodity around the holidays. But choosing the turkey breast meat and staying away from rich cheese plates and rib roasts will help. It goes without saying this includes the shortbread cookies and doughnuts. High-fat foods are difficult to digest, so they can back up into the esophagus.
Tipple just a little
Of course, you should raise a glass in toast, but remember that the more you drink, the more likely you are to irritate the lining of your stomach and cause heartburn. The muscle that rings the area where the stomach and esophagus meet, called the lower esophageal sphincter, is relaxed with alcohol, thus allowing stomach acid back up the esophagus.
Pass on pudding
But if dinner just isn’t complete without it, take a tiny tidbit to satisfy the taste buds (and your Aunt Bertha) and skip the brandy sauce. And if given a choice, avoid chocolate and opt for carrot cake or fruit parfait.
Can the coffee
Especially after a big meal, drinking that after-dinner cappuccino can have the same effect as alcohol. The caffeine can relax the esophageal sphincter, allowing acid to splash back into the esophagus.
Do the dishes
Or anything, for that matter, that gets you out of your chair after a big meal. The more you linger following the holiday feast, the more time your digestive system takes to process your offerings and the longer it has to lie in wait for an attack. Light exercise after a heavy meal is the best way to avoid heartburn.
Give the candy canes to the kids
Sadly, if you experience heartburn or acid reflux, these little sugar and mint treats can cause you grief. Mint is a common trigger for heartburn symptoms, so that after-dinner mint should also be avoided.
Fight the burn
If the plum pudding put you over the top, here are some natural solutions to help fight the burn. These herbs have a long history of traditional use in inflammation and irritation of the digestive tract and may help to reduce the burn of reflux.