Health Team

Holiday indulgence can aggravate acid reflux

Posted November 13, 2014

Studies suggest that about a third of the population suffers from either occasional acid reflux or a more chronic problem call gastro-esophageal reflux disease, or GERD.

Some people call it heartburn - a burning feeling in the chest and a sour taste in the mouth after a meal. It happens when the sphincter muscle, which is supposed to keep acid in the stomach, weakens. Acid travels into the esophagus and sometimes into the throat and mouth.

Repeated or prolonged exposure can damage the tissue and lead to serious medical complications. Smoking and obesity can increase symptoms.

“Losing weight helps – even if you lose just 10 pounds,” gastroenterologist Dr. Hiren Doshi said. “You don't have to be skinny, but a 10-pound weight loss will significantly impact your reflux symptoms. If you gain 10 pounds, it can get worse.”

Doshi says if over-the-counter medications don’t bring the condition under control, see a doctor.

Acid reflux and GERD can be especially challenging during the holiday season and all the big meals that come with it.

Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas parties are when people reason that it's OK to over-indulge and even gain a few pounds, said WRAL health expert Dr. Allen Mask.

“They're eating the very foods that are common triggers,” he said. “We're talking about high-fat foods like fried foods, gravy, many dairy products like butter, cheese and sour cream.”

Fatty cuts of meat, high-fat desserts like cakes and pies, chocolate and spicy or acidic foods are also common triggers.

Mask advises patients to limit those foods and increase dietary fiber, particularly in the form of fruits and vegetables. Probiotics, which are found in many yogurts, and mild exercise or walking after eating can also help digestion.


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