by Elizabeth Seznov
We’ve all felt the after effects of that big holiday meal. Our stomachs are bloated from overindulging in mass amounts of turkey and pumpkin pie and our eyes slowly begin to close for that post-dinner nap. Suddenly, you are awakened from your short-lived slumber by a shooting pain in your chest caused by the onset of heartburn. Like many before you who have enjoyed a filling holiday feast, you are suffering from “Holiday Heartburn.”
“All of the ingredients in a holiday meal can spell disaster for those who experience mild heartburn or stomach problems,” said Rose T. Codini, M.D., a gastroenterologist on staff at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center- San Clemente. “Heartburn is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders in the world with more than 25 million Americans suffering from the condition on a daily basis. By overindulging in holiday dinners and desserts, many people will be facing the unpleasant reality of heartburn.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 60 million American adults experience gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and heartburn at least once a month. Heartburn is even more common during pregnancy, with about one in four women reporting it daily at some point during their pregnancy.
Heartburn, the most common symptom of GERD, is a burning discomfort in the chest or throat that results when harsh stomach acid comes into contact with and irritates the delicate lining of the esophagus. Most of the time, it is mild and can be controlled by modifications in one’s diet such as avoiding alcohol, caffeine, chocolate and peppermint. However, there are some people who require prescription medication and even surgery to treat acid reflux.
“Those who experience frequent heartburn over an extended period of time may be exposing their esophagus to permanent damage and even possibly esophageal cancer if not treated early by their physician,” explained Dr. Codini. “Simple diet and lifestyle changes can help patients alleviate the ill-effects of heartburn.”
Dr. Codini offers tips to avoid holiday heartburn.
> Avoid certain known trigger foods such as fried and spicy foods, foods that are high in fat and acid, coffee and tea, raw vegetables, carbonated beverages, chocolate and even peppermint.
> Try to eat smaller portions. Also avoid overeating, especially late in the evening.
Your lifestyle does make a difference. Living a stressful and hectic lifestyle can lead to heartburn. Take time out of your busy schedule to take breaks and relax.
> Put an end to bad habits. Smoking and alcohol can increase you chance of heartburn.
> Over-the-counter antacids, such as Tums or Rolaids, can neutralize existing acid and can provide short term relief while H2 blockers (Zantac, Pepcid AC) or the proton pump inhibitors (Prilosec OTC), reduce acid production, which can sometimes both relieve and eliminate heartburn symptoms for a longer time. It’s important to know when your condition has gone beyond the self-treatment stage. If heartburn sufferers use these medications for longer than two weeks without any improvements, they should see their doctor who may try prescription strength mediations and/or recommend an endoscopy to directly look at and test the lining.b
For more information about programs and services or for free physician referral, call the Saddleback Health Information Center at (949) 452-7255 or visit www.memorialcare.org