Dealing with GERD Over the Holidays

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, abbreviated as GERD, is a common digestive problem. For people with GERD, there is a problem with the muscle at the bottom end of the esophagus. This muscle — the lower esophageal sphincter — should allow food to pass into the stomach and then close up, but with GERD the muscle doesn’t close properly. This allows stomach acid to reflux or come back up into the esophagus. The acid reflux can cause heartburn and other symptoms.

Many people like to celebrate the winter holidays by eating special foods and drinks, but this can be a tricky situation for those with GERD because many common holiday foods can actually be triggering for reflux. While many people with GERD discover that they have their own personal triggers, the following foods are common triggers:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Chocolate
  • Citrus fruits
  • Fatty or fried foods
  • Garlic
  • Mint
  • Onions
  • Tomato sauces

Behavioral changes can also help to manage GERD. Eating smaller meals can be helpful. Eating smaller meals more frequently can help to avoid overeating. Stop eating before you feel too full. Resist the urge to take a nap after eating — wait at least three hours before lying down or going to bed. If you’re fighting a food coma, try going for a 15-minute walk instead.

Simple lifestyle changes and over-the-counter antacids are often helpful for those with GERD. For some people, prescription medicines may also be needed. Surgery is also an option in extreme cases. If you’re suffering from GERD, talk to your doctor about which treatments are right for you.

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