Between over-indulging on fried appetizers, carb-heavy casseroles and decadent desserts, it’s no wonder most people will get a bout of acid reflux (a.k.a. heartburn) during the holiday season.
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Acid reflux happens when the naturally occurring acid we already have in our stomach moves back into the esophagus and results in the sensation of heartburn in the middle of the chest.
Here, read on for easy ways to ease acid reflux and prevent it from happening in the first place.
1. Eat whole foods.
It’s often thought that acid reflux means a lack of digestion-aiding hydrochloric acid in the stomach, but that’s not the case.
“In an overwhelming majority of cases, it’s not too much acid, it’s acid in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Craig Fear, a nutritional therapy practitioner in Northampton, Mass. and author of “The 30-Day Heartburn Solution.”
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Eating a diet high in processed foods makes it impossible to produce acid for digestion. And when the food sits in the stomach too long, it can expand, give off gases, and put pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter, the valve that separates the stomach from the esophagus, causing the food to move back up.
So starting at your next holiday party, skip the chips and dip and go for a small portion of guacamole with raw vegetables or a handful of walnuts instead.
2. Pick one dessert and enjoy it.
With sweets everywhere you turn in the next few weeks, it can be hard to say no. But lots of carbohydrates, refined grains and sugars can make digestion difficult.
Instead of loading up on carb-heavy fare, focus on protein-rich foods that drive digestion, along with plenty of vegetables and fruit, healthy fats and low glycemic carbs like sweet potatoes.
Still want dessert? Cut the slice of cake in half and enjoy.
“You don’t have to deny or deprive yourself,” Fear said.
3. Eat mini meals.
Instead of piling your dish high with everything from the buffet, stick with healthy appetizers and one cocktail or use an appetizer plate for your meal instead.
4. Try apple cider vinegar, ginger tea or peppermint.
Although apple cider vinegar is very acidic, it can boost the stomach’s acidity without causing reflux, Fear said. Drink a tablespoon diluted in water before meals. A cup of ginger tea after meals or peppermint may help, too.
5. Find ways to relax.
A recent Harris poll found that 71 percent of Americans are stressed out by the holidays.
Overeating to deal with the end of the year can just make symptoms worse.
Instead of letting anxiety consume you, set realistic expectations for yourself, make an appointment on your calendar for a yoga class or a massage, or volunteer to help those in need, which can help put your own worries in perspective.
6. Cut yourself off.
After-hours holiday parties can keep you snacking all night, but eating too close to bedtime can make acid reflux worse. Stop eating and drinking (water included) three hours before bedtime.
7. Avoid trigger foods.
Stay away from citrus, spicy foods, coffee and especially carbonated beverages.
“The acid in the beverage, as well as all of the carbonation, pushes acid up,” said Dr. Partha Nandi, a clinical assistant professor at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in Rochester, Mich. and creator and host of the syndicated television show “Ask Dr. Nandi.”
8. Make your New Year’s resolutions now.
Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for acid reflux, but losing just 10 to 15 percent of your weight can make a difference. Quitting smoking can also reverse symptoms.
9. See your doctor.
Chronic acid reflux may be due to Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) or to a hiatal hernia, which happens when the lower esophageal sphincter opens up or; both of which can damage the esophagus.
If you have symptoms of acid reflux one to two times a week, make an appointment to see your doctor. He may do an endoscopy to look for damage to the esophagus or prescribe medications known as PPIs to treat symptoms and heal the esophagus, Nandi said.