7 Tips to Avoid Holiday Heartburn - Virtua Gastroenterology

7 Tips to Avoid Holiday Heartburn

By , Gastroenterologist—Virtua Gastroenterology

Holiday feasts are close to our hearts. We love to sit down at the table with loved ones and gorge on rich foods we don't normally get to eat. But, these foods can be a recipe for a bad case of heartburn.

Heartburn, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is the backup of stomach acid into the esophagus caused by a valve that doesn’t close tightly. The acid flowing back into the esophagus can cause burning that starts just above the stomach and radiates up into the chest. The reflux may awaken you from sleep and leave a sour taste in your mouth.

Advice to help you avoid holiday heartburn


Don’t pile your plate.
A major cause of heartburn is simply overeating. Instead, ask for an appetizer plate, and don't pile it too high. Take small or moderate-sized portions of what you really want to eat. Eat slowly, and when you feel full, stop. If there's something you really wanted but didn't get a chance to eat, ask for a to-go container.

Grab some veggies.
Rich, spicy and high-fat foods can all trigger acid reflux. So instead of eating a whole plate of shrimp, mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese, go for some vegetables. Carrots, cabbage, peas, broccoli and green beans are all good bets. Salad is also a good choice, but avoid acid-aggravating ingredients like tomatoes, raw onions and creamy dressings.

Stay awake and active.
Eating a big meal can certainly make you tired. Delay napping for at least two to three hours after eating by breaking out your favorite board games, taking a walk or tossing the football in the yard. While standing or sitting upright, gravity will help keep stomach acid from migrating into the esophagus. When you do head to bed, prop up your pillows to help with digestion.

Watch what you drink.
Alcohol, caffeine and carbonated drinks can bring on acid reflux, no matter what you eat. Brew a batch of special holiday tea or hot-spiced cider to replace champagne, wine or beer. Avoid citrus juices, as they can trigger heartburn as well. Your best bet, of course, is water.

Get your just desserts.
Candy canes may taste like the holidays, but peppermint can trigger acid reflux. So can chocolate. Try low-fat dessert options like frozen yogurt, baked apples (or apple pie) and angel food cake.

Dress for comfort.
You want to look your best at parties, but tight clothing adds extra pressure to your waistline. Wear looser, more comfortable clothes—but don’t take that as a sign to overeat. 

Take time to relax.
Stress can lead to heartburn or worsen symptoms. Set aside time for yourself during the busy season to relax. Try yoga or meditation.

If you're prone to get heartburn, there's nothing wrong with taking medicine beforehand, including antacids and acid blockers. There are many options over-the-counter and by prescription. But, by avoiding triggers, you can have a happy, burn-free holiday.

Is your gut health in check?

If stomach issues affect you often, it may be time to call 1-888-847-8823 to schedule an appointment with a Virtua gastroenterologist

For the latest digestive health information, sign up for Virtua’s digestive health newsletter.

Updated December 2, 2019

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