Published on December 17, 2021

Holidays & Heartburn

peppermint candy

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is certainly not very appetizing. While heartburn and acid reflux (GERD) can occur anytime, they are certainly prevalent during the holiday season.

GERD is a condition where stomach acid backs up into the lower esophagus two or more times a week. It usually begins as a burning pain that starts behind the breastbone and radiates upward to the neck. Normally, the lower esophageal sphincter stops the flow of acid into the esophagus. When it is weak or relaxes inappropriately, GERD can occur.

During the holidays, we tend to overeat. Your stomach can be compared to a balloon—as it fills up, the neck of the balloon becomes shorter and shorten until it fails completely. When that happens, whatever is in the balloon (or in this case, your stomach), comes rushing up and out. The stomach contents reflux back into the esophagus and cause a burning sensation commonly known as heartburn.

You may have other symptoms as well, like a globus sensation (feeling like a frog in your throat or the need to constantly clear your throat), belching or chest discomfort. Some people have atypical symptoms like chronic cough, hoarseness, chronic sore throat, burning mouth or bad taste, nausea, non-cardiac chest pain as well as adult onset of asthma. You might also experience sleep disruption with difficulty breathing or lying flat to sleep.

These lifestyle modifications can help you make it through the holiday season:

  • Avoid acidic foods and drinks (tomato or citrus juice, red sauces), spicy or fatty/ fried foods, alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, peppermint or chocolate.
  • Limit your portion size. Avoid overeating! Remember your stomach can only hold so much before reflux occurs.
  • Wait at least two to three hours after your meal before lying down.
  • Elevate the head of your bed or use three to four pillows so you sleep at a 30-degree angle.
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing.
  • Stop smoking /vaping/chewing tobacco. Nicotine decreases the “strength” of the lower esophageal sphincter, which leads to more frequent reflux episodes.

Here’s some food for thought: Left untreated, chronic acid reflux can damage the esophagus and possibly lead to esophageal cancer.

Lifestyle and dietary changes alone may not prevent chronic heartburn. As many as 60 million Americans experience heartburn as least once a month, and about 25 million experience heartburn daily. If your reflux symptoms persist despite these lifestyle changes, call us for help.

The Heartburn Center at North Mississippi Medical Center’s Center for Digestive Health offers the latest in medical therapies, accurate testing and minimally invasive surgery. Our board-certified gastroenterologists may recommend prescription medication and/or schedule an upper endoscopy (EGD). We can conduct other esophageal and reflux testing if needed.

Our sole mission is to treat your chronic heartburn. If you feel it’s time to take control of your eating – and your life—give us a call at (662) 377-5792 or 1-877-825-0068, or email ceharrelson@nmhs.net.

Food for Thought: Left untreated, chronic acid reflux can damage the esophagus & possibly lead to esophageal cancer.