Nearly one in five Americans needs frequent relief from heartburn. If you're among them, you're probably looking forward to the holidays with a mixture of anticipation and queasiness. The six weeks from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day often turn into a caloric free-for-all, and holiday menus are loaded with the foods that are on most heartburn sufferers' "danger" lists.
How can you enjoy the office holiday party, your Thanksgiving feast, Christmas at your in-laws, and the endless round of festive events without needing heartburn relief? Fear not -- the holidays need not be a time when you're haunted by the Ghost of Dinner Immediately Past. Just remember these holiday tips for relief from heartburn:
Heartburn symptoms can be triggered by certain foods, beverages, and activities. For example, some people suffer heartburn after eating onions, peppermint, chocolate, caffeine, citrus fruits, tomatoes, or high-fat foods. Others suffer heartburn if they lie down after a large meal.
What are your triggers? Find out by keeping a heartburn log.
Each day, jot down your symptoms and the time they occurred. Then note the foods you ate and your specific activities before the symptoms began. Once you notice...
1. Nibble, don't gorge. How much you eat makes a difference, so don't pile your plate too high. For sure relief from heartburn symptoms, just sample a few bites of everything. You can enjoy Mom's gravy and cranberry sauce, but skip the second (and third) helpings.
2. Don't get rich. It's not just how much you eat, but what you eat, that provokes heartburn symptoms. You may already know that fat is a primary culprit, but so is sugar. If you're debating between simple roasted potatoes and potatoes au gratin, go for the roasted potatoes for less chance of heartburn.
3. Front-load your meal. Many of the dietary dangers of the holidays come with dessert. Especially problematic are heartburn-irritating treats that contain chocolate, peppermint, or citrus.
4. Order hors d'oeuvres. At many holiday parties, the light appetizers are a better bet to avoid heartburn. Look for things like steamed shrimp, salmon, and other protein-rich but volume-light nibbles. Veggie trays are always a good bet, but keep an eye on how much dip you're dousing that celery in.
5. Accept substitutes. Nobody expects you to skip dessert entirely, but go for angel food cake instead of a large piece of chocolate cake. Even better, try a fruit and yogurt parfait instead. You'll help curb heartburn and excess calories. Your whole body will thank you later.
6. Take your time. If you wolf down your holiday ham so you can rush back to the big game, you'll likely be moaning later. Linger over dinner for relief from heartburn. People get more heartburn when they eat quickly. So slow down, and savor.
7. Get up! After a big holiday meal, everyone's tempted to lie down on the couch to nap or watch football and parades. But that's the worst thing you can do for your heartburn. That food is still in your stomach for the next few hours, lying in wait to cause reflux. If you must go from mashed potatoes to couch potato, at least sit with your head higher than your stomach. Better yet, play football instead of watching it, or go for a walk to look at the neighborhood decorations.
8. Toast -- but don't get toasted. A glass of wine or champagne to celebrate the holiday probably won't spur an attack of heartburn. But beware finishing the bottle -- the more you drink, the more likely you could experience heartburn.
9. Plan ahead for relief from heartburn. If you know you are prone to heartburn, don't find yourself without heartburn relief at 10 a.m. on Dec. 25, hunting for an open pharmacy. Instead, keep your heartburn medicine on hand when you're at home and traveling.