Learn more about GERD-friendly holiday foods!
The holiday season brings with it plenty of fun traditions: decorating, gift buying and perhaps the most enjoyable of all – eating! This time of year is often an excuse to indulge in delicious food with all the holiday meals and extra treats being brought into the office to share. However, weight gain may not be the only consequence of throwing moderation out the window.
“Heartburn is extremely common, especially during the holidays,” Veeral Oza, MD, with Bon Secours St. Francis Gastroenterology, shares. “It’s a symptom of acid reflux, which happens when your stomach contents come back up into your esophagus. It’s a relatively minor condition that a lot of people get from time to time, but it can also be a sign of something more serious if you find yourself experiencing it on the regular. Moreover, chronic reflux is a major risk factor for esophageal cancer, so it is important to control reflux.”
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic acid reflux disorder that can interfere with one’s daily activities. In addition to frequent heartburn, those with GERD may experience other symptoms, such as a dry cough, burping or hiccups, difficulty in swallowing, a lump in the throat and vomiting or regurgitation.
If you have GERD, there are things you can do to ensure you are still able to enjoy your holiday meals.
Start by aiming for smaller meals. Your stomach produces acid based on how much food you eat, so you don’t want to overload your stomach. Instead of piling up your plate all at one meal, try eating smaller portions of your favorites that are spread out over the day.
“It’s also important to keep track of your trigger foods,” Dr. Oza warns. “Spicy or fatty foods, alcohol, caffeine and even chocolate can often lead to indigestion. If you know you can’t resist a food that’s more likely to cause you issues, give your body time to digest it and don’t lie down for at least a few hours afterward.”
There are some holiday foods that may help ease GERD symptoms in some people.
Research shows increasing your intake of fiber may help control GERD. So, be more mindful about what you’re putting on your plate and consider loading up on these foods to help reduce your acid reflux symptoms:
- Turkey is still the star of the show! It and other lean meats, such as chicken, fish and seafood, are low in fat and can also reduce acid reflux symptoms.
- You can still have your sides! Vegetables such as green beans, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, leafy greens, potatoes and cucumbers are not only low in fat and sugar, but they also help reduce stomach acid.
- Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and is a natural treatment for heartburn and other gastrointestinal problems. You can add grated or sliced ginger root to recipes or drink ginger tea to ease symptoms.
And the timing of when you eat can be just as important as your holiday food choices.
“Make sure to savor your holiday favorites, because eating too quickly is also a common cause of heartburn,” Dr. Oza adds. “Instead of running around and eating on the go, make time to sit down and slowly enjoy each meal this holiday season. Doing so can also help prevent you from eating too much without realizing it.”
Now that you know some GERD-friendly holiday foods and other tips, hopefully you can keep your symptoms at bay. But if you find yourself experiencing GERD symptoms frequently, even after the holidays are over, make sure to speak with your primary care provider. Medications or newer endoscopic procedures may be an option to help you find relief.