Your Festive Heartburn Survival Guide

Your Festive Heartburn Survival Guide

It’s nearly upon us…. The time of festive excess when we all have a tendency to go a little bit crazy in the eating and drinking department. Read our Festive Heartburn Survival Guide for tips on how to avoid this most unpleasant of Christmas traditions..

Acid Reflux, commonly known as heartburn, is our body’s way of letting us know that the rich, fatty foods we love at Christmas are not the greatest thing for our gastrointestinal tract. We’re not suggesting that you avoid indulging altogether over Christmas and New Year but, if you are prone to heartburn, there are some steps you can take to minimise your chances of experiencing it.

What Causes Acid Reflux?

It helps to know, for starters, what causes heartburn. That telltale burning feeling is actually stomach acid being pushed into our oesophagus where it doesn’t belong, causing discomfort and pain. A small muscle acts as a barrier between our stomach and our oesophagus. As we get older, the muscle gradually weakens, making it easier for stomach acid to leach upwards into the oesophagus.

Standing upright helps to keep stomach acid in its rightful place, thanks to the effects of gravity. But, when we lie down or recline in a chair, it is far easier for the acid to be pushed into the oesophagus. And, of course, after overindulging, we are far more likely to want to lie down or relax… which is actually the worst thing we can do for our digestion.

Other factors, too, increase the likelihood of stomach acid migrating upwards. We’re sorry to tell you that extra pounds on your waistline add to the internal pressure, increasing the likelihood of heartburn.

Coupled with the fact that overindulging on fatty foods serves to slow the digestion to a crawl, it’s easy to see why Christmastime is one of the peak times for sales of over the counter indigestion remedies.

Six Ways to Avoid the Acid Feeling

So, what can you do about it? Now you know what causes heartburn, it’s relatively easy to understand the best way of avoiding it.

1. Don’t Overdo It

Number one is, of course, not to have too much fatty food. Try not to overfill your plate, which can be tempting when you are faced with tables groaning with Christmas treats. Also, get in the habit of noticing when you feel full and stopping eating to avoid that horrible overfull feeling.

2. Savour Don’t Gobble

Think about how you’re eating. Many of us have become accustomed to eating on the go which creates a tendency to eat too fast, gobbling down our food without really paying much attention to what we are eating. Try to retrain yourself to savour your food, eating slowly and taking time to savour small bites.

3. Walk to Help your Digestion

Our bodies digest their food more effectively when we are standing up. It’s a good idea to go for a walk after dinner rather then lying down. And try to avoid eating less than four hours before bedtime. Admittedly, this is not always easy when it’s party time, which is why it’s more important than ever not to overdo it.

4. Pay Attention to Your Body

There will be certain foods and drinks that are more likely to trigger heartburn. These differ for different people but likely candidates include onions, chocolate, citrus juices, tomatoes, soft drinks, coffee and alcohol. Get to know your body and avoid the foods that are most likely to cause you problems.

5. Avoid Tight Waistbands

We know you’re not going to want to turn up to the office Christmas party in slouchy tracksuit bottoms but maybe choose an outfit that is not too tight around the middle to avoid suffering from indigestion later.

6. Stock Up on Over the Counter Remedies

At this time of year, it’s worth stocking up on over the counter remedies, just in case. Antacids like Rennies neutralise stomach acid while acid blockers like Pepcid AC actually reduce the production of stomach acid. If you feel the first pangs of acid indigestion, you will have something to hand that you can take to nip the problem in the bud.

Wishing you a very happy and heartburn-free Festive season! For more information about managing your heartburn symptoms this festive season and ongoing, contact Dr Anton Bungay.


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