GERD: A Holiday Tradition
It seems like we all do it – overeat during the holidays, that food-filled stretch from late November to the day after New Year’s. It’s five or six weeks of holiday parties at which we eat too much, eat the wrong things, and probably drink too much.
Sure, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, but the repercussions on your system can be difficult. Forget for a moment the long term implications of gaining weight or the short term danger of drinking and driving. Let’s focus on the discomfort and potential harm of GERD – gastroesophageal reflux disease.
GERD is very common – about 20 percent of the population suffers from it. If someone has GERD, it means that acidic or non-acidic stomach contents are back-flowing into their esophagus. The most common symptoms are heartburn and acid regurgitation. Our often-indulgent behavior during the holiday season can make things worse.
That’s one reason why the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders declared Thanksgiving Week “GERD Awareness Week.” It’s their goal to help people make smarter choices this season to minimize heartburn and other GERD-related issues.
- Don’t overeat. Honestly, you don’t need a third helping. Jamming too much food into your stomach all in one sitting can put pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) – the valve between your stomach and esophagus. This can cause acid to splash up into the esophagus. It’s best to eat slowly and have smaller portions, even if you end up eating more meals.
- Limit the chocolate. Chocolate can churn up stomach acid, exacerbating GERD.
- Take a walk. Rather than passing out on the couch after a big meal, go for a stroll. It’ll help you digest. Lying down makes your digestive system work without gravity, making it more difficult for your system to do its work.
- Sprinkle in some ginger. This is a holiday spice that just happens to ease heartburn. You can sprinkle it on just about vegetable dish, get in the holiday spirit and feel better.
- Avoid fatty foods. Fat exacerbates GERD. So go for white meat rather than more fatty dark meat. Don’t have too much dairy. Etcetera.
- Ease up on the drinking. Alcohol can cause your LES to relax, and therefore allow a backflow of acid into the esophagus.
If watching your diet doesn’t alleviate your heartburn or reflux, be sure to see your doctor as soon as you can. Untreated, GERD can cause lead to more serious issues, even including throat cancer.
Crozer-Keystone offers a range of board-certified physicians who are trained in the latest technologies and procedures to comprehensively diagnose, manage and treat gastrointestinal and liver conditions. For more information or to make an appointment, visit http://gi.crozerkeystone.org or call 1-877-CKHS-GI1 (254-7441).