It’s the happiest time of the year, right?
Not so fast. Your holiday gift list is a mile long, and you still have to fight the crowded malls, all the while trying to make time for the abundance of parties. Through it all, that nagging, burning pain won't leave your chest.
Acid reflux. It can make your holidays anything but merry. So, how to deal?
Dr. Anthony Starpoli, director of gastroesophageal research and endosurgery at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan, said the stress of the holiday season certainly attributes to an increase in acid reflux symptoms, which include heartburn, regurgitation, chest pain and difficulty swallowing.
“Stress tends to exacerbate the outflow of acid into the stomach,” Starpoli said. “Stress alters your behavior. You may be fatigued, and indulging at night by drinking alcohol, which certainly can make things worse. It all affects the functionality of the natural anti-reflux barrier.”
In order to keep your acid reflux symptoms at bay, and keep your holidays happy, Starpoli offered these tips:
1. Avoid sleeping aids or anti-anxiety pills. They can affect the function of the lower esophageal sphincter, causing more acid reflux.
2. Take with plenty of water. Along with holiday stress often comes headaches. And for headaches, there are pain relievers. Sometimes, however, people don't take enough water with their pills and this may cause heartburn.
“There is a thing called pill esophagitis, and it can actually happen with any pill when you don’t swallow the pill without enough liquids,” he said. “The pill becomes lodged in the esophagus and a burning pain happens. Remember to drink plenty of fluids, wash it down with a couple of glasses of water.”
3. Don't pull an all-nighter. You may be burning both ends of the candle, but fatigue plays a significant role in your acid reflux symptoms.
4. Don't eat before bed. If you are staying up late at night, wait at least four hours before lying down.
5. Stop smoking. Even if you tend to only smoke socially, the nicotine will definitely aggravate your acid reflux symptoms.
6. Eat in moderation. “All the goodies will be out, but minimize, especially if you are prone to acid reflux,” Starpoli said.
7. Pay attention to pain. If you have chest pain, it could be heartburn, but there could also be a cardiac component to your health problem.
“If you are taking antacids and not getting any better, stratify your symptoms,” Starpoli said. “Are you overweight or a smoker? It’s well-known that when people eat (a lot) like they do in the holiday season, the blood goes away from other organs to the digestive tract. And, one of the organs that get less blood is the heart. Heart disease can manifest itself.”
Even though you are in the giving spirit of the holiday season, it is important to remember to take care of yourself.