Have Yourself a GERD-free Holiday

Man-With-Stomach-ProblemsMost of us look forward to holiday eating. After all, there are only a few days a year where you can overindulge and not feel quite so guilty. But for the 20 percent of adults who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), it’s not so simple.

GERD is basically chronic heartburn that develops when the reflux of stomach contents cause troublesome symptoms like burning in the chest. It’s triggered in two ways – acidic foods and too much pressure in the stomach. And for those who are sensitive, it can be worse around the holidays when we eat larger amounts of fatty foods.

“A lot of people think spicy foods or citrus foods cause GERD,” says Memorial Medical Center dietitian Emily Bailey, RD, LDN. “But it’s not the actual food that causes GERD, it’s what’s going on in the stomach.”

Foods such as red and black peppers and beverages like coffee and alcohol are all acidic in the stomach, which means there is a burning sensation when contents flow back up to the esophagus. The foods that cause the most pressure in the stomach, which forces contents back up, are items like chocolate, mint and  fatty, greasy foods.

The best bet for your holiday meal, according to Bailey, is to limit your intake of trigger foods as well as the type of food you select. Choose lean turkey over ham. Go for the baked potato with light toppings instead of loaded mashed potatoes. Skip the chocolate and indulge in a fruit dessert. And have fun creating a non-alcoholic festive drink instead of drinking alcohol.

Bailey says some simple changes in your routine can also help keep the meal reflux free.

  • Break up eating into smaller, more frequent meals.
  • Wear loose fitting clothes that aren’t tight around your waist.
  • Stay upright after eating.
  • Instead of hitting the couch after dinner, go for a walk.
  • Avoid eating within three hours of bedtime.
  • Prop up the head of your bed when you sleep.
  • You should also have antacids like Tums or Rolaids on hand if you do start to feel symptoms while eating. And don’t be afraid to talk about the reasoning behind your food selections. That way, Aunt Edna won’t be offended when you pass on the double-chocolate brownies.  

Happy Eating!