Published November 24, 2010
It’s estimated Americans will consume a mind-boggling 675 million pounds of turkey this Thanksgiving – and that’s just one aspect of the meal. What about all those side dishes?
Needless to say, most people will overindulge, stuffing their bellies with everything from mashed potatoes and gravy to several slices of apple pie. And while it certainly tastes good going down, what follows afterwards may have you reaching for a bottle of antacid instead of a second helping.
So before you lift that fork and knife – follow these 5 simple steps to avoid acid reflux this holiday season:
1. Everything in moderation
“Even though it’s Thanksgiving keep your diet in check and try to avoid overeating,” said Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa, assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, division of gastroenterology.
“Basically when you distend your stomach full of food it tends to force the acid up into your esophagus,” she said. “This is why we generally recommend people that have GERD have more frequent smaller meals rather than one big one.”
She suggested snacking on turkey, mashes potatoes and all the other fixings every few hours as opposed to eating everything at once.
It’s also extremely important to chew your food properly, Dr. Anthony Starpoli, director of gastroesophageal research and endosurgery at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan told FOXNews.com.
“We often see a spike in emergency room visits this time of year for food impaction, which is basically food getting stuck in your esophagus.”
This is just one symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also referred to as acid reflux.
Other common symptoms include:
— Heartburn, which is a burning sensation under the breast bone;
— Sensations of swallowing difficulty.
If you experience these symptoms two times a week or more, you could have GERD.
2. Avoid drinking too much alcohol and caffeinated drinks
“Alcohol and caffeine both decrease the strength of the lower esophageal sphincter, which serves as a safety valve to keep acid down in the stomach,” Rajapaksa said.
Other foods that compromise the ability of the lower esophageal sphincter include greasy, fatty foods, citrus and chocolate.
“So, if you’ve been having a rich meal, drinking alcohol and then drinking coffee and having a chocolate dessert – you’re basically doing everything that can cause reflux,” Starpoli said.
3. Try not to lie down and fall asleep
Although it’s extremely tempting to jump on the couch and take a nap after eating all that turkey – don’t.
“Do not lie down soon after you eat,” Rajapaksa said. “Stay upright for two to three hours after you eat because gravity will help the acid flow down instead of upwards towards the esophagus.”
4. Don’t forget your medication
If you have acid reflux – take your medication, Starpoli said. And if that one pill is not enough, it is okay to turn to an over-the-counter remedy if you properly follow directions.
“Over-the-counter should not be combined with prescription anti-reflux medications too close together," he said. "If you do it could render the primary prescription drug ineffective. However, you can take an over-the-counter antacid three to four hours after you’ve taken your prescription."
5. Avoid tight clothing
Turkey day is a good time to wear relaxed-fitting clothing. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean pulling out a baggy pair of sweat pants and wearing them to the dinner table, but it will do you good to pass on the spandex.
“Don’t wear tight-fitting clothing especially around the waist,” Rajapaksa said. “If you do, it could cause more pressure in your stomach, which again will force the acid up.”
Finally, know when symptoms are more than GERD.
“People who have a history of problems or known high cholesterol or triglycerides can present with symptoms of GERD, but it could be a cardiac problem,” Starpoli said.
If you have chest discomfort that’s not a classic burning beneath the breast bone – but more of a feeling of someone sitting on your chest – it may be time to head to the hospital, he added.
The bottom line – it’s important to get checked out no matter what.
“Because acid reflux can cause serious damage to your esophagus and, in even rare instances, it can cause esophageal cancer – so don’t ignore it,” Rajapaksa concluded.