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Preventing Heartburn at Holiday Parties

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Updated August 03, 2011

The holidays are filled with feasts and festivities -- and sometimes heartburn, too. Here's how to avoid holiday heartburn.

1. Don't overeat
At holiday feasts and party gatherings, there is often the urge to pile your plate high with food. If you see that there are a lot of different foods you like, just sample a few bites of everything. This way you can enjoy your favorites without triggering your heartburn. Remember to skip the second (and third, and fourth) helpings. Large meals expand your stomach and increase upward pressure against the lower esophageal sphincter, which can lead to heartburn.

2. Avoid rich food
It's not just how much you eat, but what you eat, that causes heartburn. While fat is a primary heartburn trigger, sugar is too. Especially those chocolate-laden treats like truffles, cake and brownies. They are popular items around the holidays, and oh-so-tasty, but triggers for heartburn.

3. Try the protein-rich hors d'oeuvres
At many holiday parties, appetizers are offered. Sticking with the appetizers that are high in protein, such as shrimp and salmon, are your best choices.

4. Eat slowly
Studies have shown that people get more heartburn when they eat quickly. So sit down, and enjoy your meal. Eat slowly, and chew completely.

5. Chew gum
Chewing gum or sucking on a lozenge for 30 minutes after meals increases the production of saliva. This saliva can relieve heartburn by bathing the esophagus and lessening the effects of acid refluxed into the esophagus by washing it back down to the stomach.

6. Avoid lying down immediately after eating
Lying down with a full stomach can cause stomach contents to press harder against the LES, which tends to relax when a person lays down, causing an increased chance of refluxed food. Also read important information about preventing nighttime heartburn.

7. Watch the alcohol
Alcohol increases the amount of acid the stomach produces, and relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). If you do want to have some alcohol during your festivities, try the following tips:

  • Dilute alcoholic beverages with water or club soda.

  • Limit alcohol consumption to 1 or 2 mixed drinks, no more than 16 ounces of wine, or and no more than 3 beers.

  • Drink white wine instead of red wine.

  • Choose non-alcoholic beer or wine.

  • Keep track of which alcoholic drinks aggravate your heartburn, and avoid them as much as possible.
8. Relax
The holiday season can be stressful. Stress increases the production of stomach acid, so holiday meals can increase episodes of heartburn. Playing soothing music during meals can help you relax and slow down while eating. The time between meals and festivities can be used to relax also. Try to take some time out each day to reduce stress by meditating for a few minutes to calm your mind and your body. You can also indulge in a favorite hobby each day to help yourself relax. For more information on stress and heartburn, check out these relaxation tips.

Sources:

Kenneth R. DeVault M.D., F.A.C.G., Donald O. Castell M.D., M.A.C.G.. "Updated Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease." 2005. American College of Gastroenterology. 9 Dec 2006.

Facts & Fallacies about Heartburn and GERD American College of Gastroenterology

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