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Preventing Holiday Heartburn

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Updated March 26, 2013

If you suffer from frequent heartburn, you know that it is very likely to pay an unwelcome visit to your holiday feast. To help ensure the heartburn doesn't spoil your celebrations, try the following tips.

Avoid Foods That Can Trigger Heartburn
One way to lessen heartburn episodes is to change your diet. There are certain foods that can worsen heartburn symptoms, and it's best for chronic heartburn sufferers to limit or completely avoid these foods and beverages. These foods include:

  • High-fat foods
  • Fried foods
  • Citrus fruits
  • Tomatoes or tomato products
  • Caffeine
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Citrus fruit drinks
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
  • Pepper
Don't Overeat
A full stomach can put extra pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which will increase the chance that some of this food will reflux into the esophagus.

Avoid Lying Down After Eating
Avoid lying down for at least three hours 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.

Watch Your Alcohol Consumption
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.
  • Drink moderate amounts of alcoholic beverages -- the suggested amounts are 1-2 mixed drinks, 12-16 ounces of wine, or 2-3 beers.
  • When having wine, drink white wine instead of red.
  • Choose non-alcoholic beer or wine.
  • Keep track of which alcoholic drinks aggravate your heartburn, and avoid them as much as possible.

Relax
The holiday season can be very stressful. Stress increases the production of stomach acid, so holiday meals can increase episodes of heartburn. To reduce the chances of heartburn, make meals a pleasant, relaxing experience with the following tips:

  • Sit down while eating
  • Eat slowly
  • Chew completely
  • Play soothing music
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.

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.

Take an Antacid or H2 Receptor Blocker
Taking an antacid, such as Tums or Mylanta, can neutralize existing acid to provide short-term relief. A H2 receptor blockers, such as Pepcid AC or Zantac 75, reduce acid production, which can provide relief from heartburn symptoms for a longer time. If you need use these medications for longer than two weeks, you should see your doctor for further evaluation.

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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. 16 Nov 2006.

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