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Beat the heat, enjoy the feast

Avoid heartburn this Thanksgiving

Reviewed by: Stephanie Doggett, PA-C
Written by: Lauryn Feil

It’s no coincidence that GERD Awareness week falls right around the week of Thanksgiving, a time when heartburn can easily arise and put a damper on festivities like family meals and celebrations. Over 30 million Americans suffer from heartburn caused by GERD, affecting about 1 in 5 or more adult men and women. GERD Awareness Week helps increase awareness about the condition, promote best practices in managing it, and encourages people experiencing chronic symptoms to contact their physicians for potential treatment options.

Common symptoms of GERD include heartburn after meals and regurgitation. Atypical symptoms include voice hoarseness, frequent throat clearing, and chronic cough. These symptoms are often treated with medical therapy. An occasional bout of heartburn should not cause damage to the esophagus. However, if you are experiencing symptoms consistently (two times per week or more), the stomach acid moving into your esophagus can over time cause more serious problems if left untreated, such as difficulty swallowing or a precancerous condition called Barrett’s Esophagus.

So, if you’re looking forward to the big feast (like we all are), but are worried about the potential consequence of heartburn, the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, offers the following 15 suggestions for curbing GERD symptoms during the Thanksgiving holiday:

  • 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 in the esophagus that help 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 alcoholic drinks. Whether it’s 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.
  • Limit portion size. Eating large meals can trigger symptoms, so try smaller meals spread throughout the day.
  • Substitute water rather than 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.
  • Give yourself time to digest. Physical exertion after a meal can lead to reflux.
  • Stay awake! While the turkey might make you sleepy, fight the urge to take a nap. Laying down within two 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.

UT Health Austin’s Heartburn and Esophageal Disorders Center specializes in the treatment of GERD by offering diagnostic testing as well as a variety of solutions such as medication management and minimally invasive surgical interventions.

If you are someone who suffers from chronic heartburn, indigestion, or acid reflux, you can enjoy the feast without the consequences of GERD with treatments that go beyond over-the-counter medications to resolve GERD for good. Visit here to learn more or to make an appointment, or call 512-495-GERD.

About UT Health Austin

UT Health Austin, the group practice designed and managed by the faculty and staff of the Dell Medical School, focuses the expertise of a team of experienced medical professionals to deliver personalized, whole-person care of uncompromising quality. Our experienced healthcare professionals treat each patient as an individual, with unique circumstances, priorities and beliefs. Working with you, your care team creates an individualized care plan to help you reach the goals that matter most to you — in the care room, and beyond. For more information, call us at 1-833-UT-CARES or request an appointment here.