For most of us, the holiday season means rich meals, sweet treats, and abundant drinks. And unfortunately, with these indulgences can come acid reflux, turning celebrations from joyous and fun to deeply uncomfortable.
If you often experience heartburn after Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, you’re not alone. Nearly 20% of Americans grapple with acid reflux on a regular basis–and many find it intensifies throughout the holiday season.
But you can partake in the festivities comfortably. Let’s discuss eight ways to prevent and manage holiday heartburn so you can enjoy everything this season has to offer.
8 Tips to manage holiday heartburn
Eat the right foods–and avoid triggers. Certain foods like leafy greens, root vegetables, and peas can help alleviate acid reflux when prepared without excessive garlic or spices.
Conversely, studies show that high-fat foods can worsen heartburn, possibly because they slow digestion and impair lower esophageal sphincter (LES; the valve that separates the esophagus from the stomach) function.
Here are some tips to reduce your fat intake and enjoy a heartburn-friendly holiday meal:
- Opt for white meat over dark.
- Choose baked potatoes over mashed to avoid heavy cream. And skip the butter and sour cream.
- Cook stuffing outside the turkey.
- Serve veggies steamed rather than in casseroles.
- Make water your beverage of choice. Limit alcohol consumption and avoid carbonated and citrus beverages, which can exacerbate acid reflux.
- Enjoy desserts that aren’t chocolate-based, and go light on ice cream or whipped cream.
- If you enjoy coffee post-dinner, choose decaf. Some studies show that caffeine can cause heartburn.
- Consider ending your meal with ginger or chamomile tea. These herbs soothe the digestive tract, providing holistic heartburn relief.
Watch your portions. Eating large meals causes your stomach to expand, exerting upward pressure on the LES. This increased pressure can lead to heartburn.
Try serving yourself small portions of the foods you enjoy, and wait a few minutes before going for seconds. This lets your body signal to your brain whether you’re still hungry. Eating from a smaller plate can further help you limit your portion sizes.
And make sure to eat small, frequent meals throughout the day rather than fasting before a holiday feast. This not only prevents your stomach from becoming overly full but also regulates the production of stomach acids, essential for digestion.
Eat slowly. When you eat too fast, your digestive system struggles to keep up, elevating your risk of heartburn. So try these tips for eating slowly and mindfully:
- Place your fork or spoon on the table after each bite.
- Chew each mouthful thoroughly.
- Count to 20 as you chew before taking your next bite.
- Take smaller portions of food with each bite.
Don’t eat too late. Eating late can also trigger heartburn. That’s because lying down with a full stomach negates gravity’s role in keeping stomach contents in place.
Leave a gap of two to three hours between your last meal and bedtime, giving your food time to digest. If you still have heartburn at bedtime, elevate your head with an extra pillow or wedge pillow to limit the amount of acid that might otherwise travel up your esophagus.
Take a walk. While it can be tempting to lie down after a feast, try going for a short walk instead. Walking after eating helps move food from the stomach to the small intestine, supporting healthy digestion and reducing the likelihood of heartburn.
Being active is essential both during and beyond the holiday season. Researchers have found a strong correlation with higher body weight and more frequent acid reflux.
Engaging in low-impact exercises like walking, jogging, or yoga can not only help you maintain a healthy weight, but keep heartburn at bay.
Quit smoking. Research has consistently shown a connection between smoking and acid reflux. One reason may be that nicotine relaxes involuntary muscles, including the LES–which is a primary defense against heartburn.
Smoking also increases inflammation in the body, which has been associated with a heightened risk of acid reflux. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about safe, natural cessation options.
Avoid post-holiday-meal mints. While peppermint can be helpful for issues in the lower part of the digestive tract like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), studies show it may exacerbate problems in the upper digestive tract, such as acid reflux.
Kari Kooi, registered dietitian at Houston Methodist Hospital, explains that peppermint relaxes the muscles bridging the stomach and esophagus. This can enable stomach acid to seep back into the esophagus.
So instead of mints, Kooi recommends chewing sugar-free gum. The act of chewing boosts the production of saliva which neutralizes acid, potentially warding off heartburn.
Plus, the increased swallowing from chewing gum helps clear any acid from the esophagus. Just opt for fruit or cinnamon-flavored gum over mint, Kooi says.
Manage stress. The holidays can be stressful. And because stress impacts the way food moves through the body, it can exacerbate issues like heartburn.
When you’re stressed, your body goes into “fight or flight” mode, slowing or pausing the natural flow of digestion to redirect energy to respond to perceived threats. On the other hand, being calm, or in “rest and digest” mode, helps food move through the digestive tract smoothly.
One simple remedy is taking slow, deep breaths before starting your meal. This helps activate your parasympathetic nervous system, promoting a more relaxed state.
Acid reflux can put a serious damper on your holiday celebrations. By utilizing these holiday heartburn tips, you can navigate the festivities with more ease and enjoy a fun, discomfort-free season.
The post Heartburn During the Holiday Season? Learn Tips to Prevent and Manage Holiday Heartburn appeared first on Alternative Medicine Magazine.