Six Tips for Coping with GERD During the Holidays

Enjoying food and drink with friends and family over the holiday season is an essential part of the Christmas spirit for many. The sheer volume of goodies on offer is daunting, and it’s an easy time to justify overindulgence.

If your thoughts about seasonal revelry are tempered with concern over frequent heartburn between Thanksgiving and New Years, you’re likely one of seven million Americans suffering from symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, a painful and chronic condition of frequent heartburn due to backflow of stomach acids.

Even if you’re already in treatment for GERD, a little awareness about the biggest dietary culprits can keep your season jolly. Here are a half-dozen tips to get you through the 12 (or more) days of Christmas.

Don’t gobble too much

One of the most important considerations for coping with GERD is moderation. There are so many delicious temptations that you can easily overfill before your body says, “No more” and by then, you’re in danger of reflux simply from overeating.


Eat a moderate amount of food, so that you’re not stuffed, which can cause reflux symptoms. Consider sticking with light hors d’oeuvres and canapes or, if you have the option, choose a small plate. If there’s no smaller plate available, load up on GERD-safe options such as salad first, then tuck a bit of the risky choices around the edges, as long as you’re not holding up the buffet line!

Scope out the hidden fat

Be on the lookout for fat lurking in otherwise innocent foods. While plain mashed potatoes are usually a safe food for GERD sufferers, many holiday cooks swear by their own recipe that packs in butter, sour cream, cream cheese, or other secret ingredient that’s likely full of flavor -- as well as fat. High-fat foods can lead to GERD symptoms because fatty foods hang around in the stomach longer.

Other holiday fare that contains sneaky fats include creamy casseroles, dips and sauces, pecan pie, eggnog, and a holiday staple -- gravy. Even a lean turkey breast can be an issue if the meat was injected with butter or oil. When you fill your plate, choose your fat-laden foods sparingly, and balance them with mostly low-fat foods. If you’re not sure about a dish, ask about the ingredients.

Drinking drives it

We’ve come a long way with designated drivers and host-booked cabs, but alcohol can still lead you to an unwanted encounter with GERD. Trade off between alcoholic drinks and water, and keep your alcohol consumption down to suppress heartburn. When choosing a mixer, adding fizzy soda or high-fat cream to alcohol is a double whammy, so go with a non-citrus juice or water.

Skip that coffee for the road if you’re the driver, however, or have a cup of decaf. Caffeine is another strong reflux trigger.

Keep it green

Salads are good idea for just about anyone at any time, and there’s no need to abandon them during festive eating. Avoid the GERD-aggravating acidic extras, such as tomatoes, citrus, onions, and spices and stick to low-fat dressings. Stay trendy and GERD-friendly with a beet salad.

On a Roll

Is there any good news about bread in our diets? If you’re hoping to avoid encounters of the GERD kind, yes, there is. Multigrain rolls are an excellent choice to assure your meal is a one-way trip to your stomach. Other types of bread have a similar calming effect, but why not go for the choice with extra fiber and nutrients?  

Choose desserts wisely

This may be the biggest challenge for many, since Christmas baking, gifts of chocolates, cookies, and other sweets seem to be everywhere. Sugary sweet treats frequently contain fats, chocolate, citrus and other GERD aggravators. As hard as it is, go easy on that box of chocolate-covered cherries. Candy canes are a holiday favorite, but peppermint can trigger symptoms, too, so it’s probably best to avoid them, especially right after a meal.

You’re the expert on which foods bother you the most, but sometimes it’s hard to pass up holiday goodies that contain your GERD triggers. Bringing moderation into this season of excess takes a lot of willpower. Remember the consequences, and prepare yourself for the holiday marathon. Pacing your intake of heartburn-inducing foods means more time with the important people in your life, and less time with your antacid bottle.

While your food choices make a big difference,there are other ways to battle heartburn, too. Wearing loose-fitting clothing to holiday parties can help alleviate pressure on your stomach. Nibble your food slowly while you mingle and chat. Staying upright for a couple hours after eating is wise, too. If it’s a late party, and you must get to bed right away, try propping your head and shoulders up with pillows while you sleep.

If you’re suffering with reflux symptoms, make an appointment with us here at Apex Medical Center. Just call one of our offices in Henderson or Las Vegas, or use the online booking tool to schedule. Merry Christmas!

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