Holidays are a time of joy and celebration, but for many folks, it’s a time of overindulge in food and spirits that can lead to mild to severe stomach ailments in the short term, and weight gain in the long run.
“Over the last few decades, gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD has been increasing and is now one of the most prevalent diseases of our time,” Dr. Michael Fenster, a Tampa-based cardiologist, also known as “The Grassroots Gourmet” tells Newsmax Health.
GERD is characterized by abnormal reflux of gastric juices back up into the esophagus causing burning and other unpleasant symptoms that can affect the quality of your life, he explains.
Here are some tips from Dr. Fenster and other experts on how to survive holiday feasting safely and sanely.
Pace yourself for holiday dinners, says Dr. Jordan Josephson, of New York City, who specializes in chronic airway inflammatory disease (CAID), which can be exacerbated by GERD. Don’t starve yourself all day and then “pig-out” at the holiday dinner table. It’s not the Last Supper!
If possible, have the big holiday meal earlier in the day. Retiring to bed right after eating a lot aggravates acid reflux. Give yourself at least three hours between eating and bedtime, adds Dr. Josephson, author of “Sinus Relief Now.”
Start with small portions of your favorite foods, instead of loading your plate before your start eating, says Tara Gidus Collingwood, author of the “Flat Belly Cookbook for Dummies.” Wait 15 minutes after you finish and ask yourself if you really want or need seconds. If you go back for seconds, you are probably choosing to feel “stuffed” rather than full.
Watch the alcohol.
Be prudent with alcohol, says Dr. Fenster. While the holiday may seem incomplete without a toast for Aunt Mildred’s soliloquy, alcohol in any form can worsen the symptoms of GERD and may lead you to overeat.
Go easy on coffee, tea.
Limit or avoid regular coffee and tea. Both beverages may aggravate symptoms of indigestion. Decaffeinated coffee and herbal teas are better choices. Ease up on carbonated beverages, too, as they can distend the stomach and cause pressure on the GES muscle, worsening indigestion.
Limit certain foods.
Peppermint or spearmint, while often viewed as a stomach soother, can actually worsen GERD symptoms by relaxing the gastroesophageal sphincter (GES) muscle and allowing gastric contents into the esophagus. Citrus fruits and tomatoes tend to be highly acidic and can cause indigestion, especially on an empty stomach, says Fenster. And spicy foods can also increase indigestion.
It’s also a good idea to plan a “before and after” dinner stroll to aid digestion and boost your fat-burning metabolism. Exercising with your friends and family is an excellent way to visit without consuming more calories. And be sure to wear loss-fitting clothes; restrictive clothing and tight belts can impede digestion, says Dr. Josephson.
Dr. Fenster notes the holidays are good time to keep healthy eating habits in mind. But indigestion, heartburn, and GERD can strike at any time of the year.
That’s why he has developed a simple six-point plan to healthy digestion, which he calls “TAPPSS.”
- Triggers: Learn your triggers that worsen your GERD symptoms.
- Avoid: Limit or eliminate triggers from your diet and be aware that certain foods like citrus, spices, and tomatoes may be components of a dish.
- Portion: Keeping portions in mind can help you maintain a balanced diet. If you want that rich dessert, have a smaller portion and let satiety kick in.
- Pace: A meal should be enjoyed at a leisurely pace. It’s not a race to see who can finish their plate the fastest.
- Satiety: Once you start eating, it takes around 20 minutes for the satiety response to kick in and signal you are full and should stop stuffing your gob.
- Saliva: If the kitchen smells have you drooling, thank the chef. Anything that increases saliva production helps with GERD. Saliva helps to neutralize stomach acid.
“In the end, the holiday gathering is to chance reconnect and share with our tribe,” says Dr. Fenster. “So concentrate on the company, eat what you truly enjoy, and have a scrumptious and sane holiday.”
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