Ho-Ho Heartburn: Avoid holiday meal pitfalls

The holidays are a time for family, friends, and the occasional overindulgence in holiday foods.

But some of those classic holiday dishes can also be the source of some classic heartburn. More Headlines According to Scott Gabbard, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic, acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or ‘GERD,’ is one of the most common complaints around the holidays.

Symptoms of GERD include a burning in the esophagus or a feeling that food is coming back up.

Gabbard said GERD most commonly happens after eating a large meal, or after lying down for bed at night.

“Large meals and high-fat meals that fill up the stomach actually trigger the bottom valve of the esophagus to open up more after those meals, allowing stomach content to come back up into the esophagus and cause the symptoms,” he said.

GERD can show up at any point in someone’s life, but Gabbard said it tends to increase with age.

For those who are prone to GERD symptoms, he recommends limiting meals to less than 500 calories and less than 20 grams of fat.

There are also several types of over-the-counter medications that can help bring relief if symptoms have already begun, but Gabbard said it’s best to consult a doctor if you need relief beyond a few days.

Sleeping at an elevated angle and on the left side can also help with reflux symptoms.

Gabbard said another issue that is common around the holiday season is upper abdominal bloating or fullness that happens during or after a meal.

He said this feeling is the result of a condition called dyspepsia, where the nerves and muscles in the stomach don’t allow the top part of the stomach to expand after a meal. Dyspepsia can be treated with medications that relax the stomach.

Gabbard said it’s important to keep in mind that it can take the stomach up to six hours to empty a normal-sized meal, so after eating a large holiday dinner, you need to give yourself plenty of time afterward before laying down.

“Make sure you’re giving yourself five or six hours from the time when the meal ends to the time you lay down. Otherwise you’re going to be more at risk for having these reflux events,” he said.

If over-the-counter solutions aren’t helping, it could be the sign of an underlying problem.

If you feel food getting stuck as you swallow or are losing weight, or if you are vomiting frequently, or having signs of blood loss, Gabbard said these are all signs that you need to see a doctor right away.

Cleveland Clinic

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