4 tips for avoiding heartburn over the holidays

The holidays are here, and we all know what that means! Long nights, twinkling lights, frantic shopping, family get-togethers and more delicious holiday foods than you could ever dream of! There’s a lot to love about the holiday season, but there are also some things that aren’t so great, too. Holiday heartburn is one of them.

We’ve all been there before, whether it’s after you finish up that third serving of the Christmas "roast beast" or once the stress of your in-laws coming to visit sets in. Heartburn is no joke, and it’s a pain to have around the holidays. Although you can’t always control whether or not an episode of heartburn hits, there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of holiday heartburn.

Tip 1: Pace yourself.

There’s something about the holidays that sets off our survival instincts. Instead of treating Christmas dinner like we would any other meal, we dive in headfirst like bears prepping for hibernation. If there’s one tip that will go the longest way towards reducing your holiday heartburn woes, it’s this one: pace yourself. The food isn’t disappearing, and chances are you’ve got multiple Christmas parties after this that you’ve crowded into your over-booked schedule.

It’s exciting to see all of your favorite foods laid out in one place, but remember that there’s more where that came from. You don’t have to cram down three bowls of figgy pudding, and frankly it won’t taste that great when you’re regurgitating it in your sleep later this evening. Try a little bit of everything and eat slowly, you’ll thank yourself later.

Tip 2: Keep an eye out for trigger foods.

If you suffer from heartburn regularly, you’ll know that there are certain foods and drinks that are much more likely to trigger heartburn than others. Things like chocolate, peppermint, tomatoes, coffee, and even red wine could leave you searching frantically for some Tums. Take notice of what’s in the dishes on your table this Christmas, and steer away from ones you know are going to cause heartburn issues.

Tip 3: Eliminate unnecessary stress (say no to hosting that family get-together).

Believe it or not, stress is one of the top contributors to heartburn. Both stress and lack of sleep can increase your acid production and result in reflux and heartburn. Even though there’s a lot to love about the holiday season, it’s important to remember that this can also be an incredibly stressful time of year. Although we know it’s impossible to eliminate stress from your life completely, take whatever small steps you can this holiday season to eliminate things that cause unnecessary stress. Maybe it’s letting your family know that they need to get a hotel instead of crashing at your place, maybe it’s shopping online and avoiding the crazy lines and stampedes at your local mall. Identify those things that stress you out and see what you can do to cut out some of them!

Tip 4: Treat the root cause of your symptoms for year-round relief.

It’s perfectly normal for people to experience the occasional bout of situational heartburn (i.e. after you stuffed yourself to bursting on Thanksgiving day), but if you notice that heartburn is a pretty routine part of your life, chances are there’s a reason. Chronic heartburn is often a sign that you may have a medical condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease, otherwise known as GERD (not sure what GERD is? You can read more about it here). It’s not a “dangerous” condition, but when left untreated it can cause patients a lot of grief.

The good news is that GERD is incredibly treatable, and procedures like anti-reflux surgery can eliminate those nasty symptoms and provide long-term relief for patients. If your heartburn is situational (meaning you’re only experiencing it at specific times like after a big holiday meal) then there’s nothing wrong with grabbing a Tums every once in a while! If chronic heartburn is something that you’re struggling with, though, you might want to consider seeing a reflux specialist. There are a number of treatments that can bring GERD patients year-round relief, not just during the holiday season. 

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