Thanksgiving is a time of year when we spend time with family and friends to celebrate what we are most thankful for. The celebration usually involves a great deal of eating our favorite foods, including traditional and non-traditional delicacies and dishes. This also can lead to overeating and gastrointestinal problems. That is why the week of Thanksgiving is also Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Awareness Week.
According to the Mayo Clinic, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic digestive disease that occurs when stomach acid or, occasionally, stomach content, flows back into your esophagus. This reflux irritates the lining of your esophagus and causes GERD.
According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, the most frequent symptom of GERD is heartburn, which is usually so common that it may not be considered part of a disease. But repeated heartburn can be a sign of GERD. However, heartburn is not the only symptom of GERD. Trouble swallowing, sore throat, or hoarseness in the morning are just a few other signs. And GERD may be present even without heartburn.
When these signs and symptoms occur at least twice each week or interfere with your daily life, or when your doctor can see damage to your esophagus, you may be diagnosed with GERD.
Most people can manage the discomfort of GERD with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications. But some people with GERD may need stronger medications, or even surgery, to reduce symptoms. Talking to a doctor is important in order to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment for GERD.
GERD treatments range from lifestyle or diet measures to the use of medication or surgical procedures. If you have signs of GERD, get an accurate diagnosis, work with your doctor, and receive the most effective treatment available.
The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) recommends 15 tips to help reduce GERD symptoms this holiday season:
- Schedule an earlier meal. It’s best not to eat late at night if you suffer from GERD.
- Serve light appetizers. Fatty foods like chips, dips, and cheeses are slow to empty from the stomach and more likely to aggravate symptoms.
- Stay active. Stick with your exercise routine during the holidays, as weight loss can help alleviate GERD symptoms.
- Don’t smoke. Nicotine weakens the muscles within your food pipe that prevent back flow (reflux) of stomach contents.
- Nix the juice. Citrus fruits and juices, like grapefruit, orange and tomato, are acidic and can worsen GERD symptoms.
- Season lightly. Spicy foods, as well as things like onions and garlic, often bother people with GERD and make heartburn worse.
- Limit your drinks. Whether wine at dinner or beer during the game, alcohol can worsen reflux.
- Pass on deep frying your turkey. Fried foods are known to exacerbate GERD symptoms.
- Use smaller plates. Eating large meals can trigger symptoms, so try smaller meals spread throughout the day.
- Substitute water for soda. Caffeinated and carbonated beverages are both notorious heartburn aggravators.
- Watch the desserts. Chocolate might be a favorite, but it often bothers people with GERD.
- Skip the after-dinner mint. Peppermint is another heartburn irritant.
- Slow down. Physical exertion after a meal can lead to reflux.
- Stay awake! While the turkey might make you sleepy, fight the urge take a nap. Lying down within 3 hours after eating can cause GERD symptoms to flare up.
- Talk to your doctor. An accurate diagnosis is the first step to receiving the most effective treatment.
For more information visit the Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Resource Center here on MDLinx.