You’re just finishing up what might be the best Thanksgiving dinner you’ve ever had when it happens. That burning feeling in your chest and throat. You think it won’t last long, but it persists and you start wondering what you could have done to avoid heartburn on Thanksgiving.
Heartburn happens when stomach acid flows backward into the esophagus. It can also go by two names: GER (gastroesophageal reflux) or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). GER is also known as acid indigestion, happening only once in a while. GERD is chronic heartburn that can lead to esophageal cancer if left untreated.
If you’re a heartburn sufferer, you’re not alone. Roughly 40 percent of us deal with heartburn, including half of all pregnant women, and almost all of us tie it to a particular food. So, if you don’t want it to ruin your holiday, here are some things you can do to avoid heartburn this Thanksgiving.
Watch What You Eat
When you sit down to the dinner table, try to avoid eating or drinking these heartburn triggers.
- Fatty or spicy foods. Turkey won’t be the only entree available, so dodge the fatty or spicy foods, which can affect the level of your stomach acid.
- Peppermint. Tastes great, but it can relax the sphincter muscle between your stomach and esophagus and cause acids to flow back into your esophagus.
- Tomatoes and tomato products. The acids in tomatoes are heartburn triggers.
- Alcoholic drinks. An after-dinner drink may sound good on a holiday, but alcohol can also relax your sphincter muscle.
- Coffee. If you like a cup of coffee after dinner—think twice. Coffee both contains and creates acid.
- Chocolate. When it comes time for dessert, remember cocoa can cause a surge of serotonin, which causes the sphincter to relax and the contents of your stomach to rise.
Eat Small, Frequent Meals
You know you’re going to want to load up your plate on Thanksgiving Day, but pay attention to portion sizes. This will give your stomach time to digest smaller amounts, instead of one or two large meals.
Don’t Lie Down
Another way to avoid GERD after the bird—don’t lie down after eating. It makes digestion more difficult and heartburn more likely. Wait about two to three hours before taking your after-dinner nap. This allows time for your food to pass through your stomach. Sleeping also slows the digestive process, which keeps food in your stomach for a longer period of time.
Try a Mediterranean Thanksgiving
A recent study found eating a Mediterranean diet may be as good as medications for treating acid reflux. If you can limit your turkey intake and stick to things like fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains on Thanksgiving Day, it may help.
The good news is if you do have GERD, you don’t have to give up your favorite foods and drinks altogether. Whether it’s Thanksgiving Day, or any day, limiting heartburn triggers can provide the relief you’re looking for.
If you’re struggling with GERD and can use some insight on causes or symptoms, download “Your Guide to GERD” today.