Giving thanks for acid reflux prevention

Hours of hard work will be put into a plethora of dishes this Thanksgiving, so it’s important that acid reflux doesn’t stop your loved ones from enjoying the food around the dinner table. A primary care expert from Baylor College of Medicine provides tips to ensure you can spend time with your family and avoid physical discomfort as a result of your Thanksgiving dinner.

“Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is commonly known as acid reflux and occurs when acid from the stomach flows up the food pipe or esophagus, leading to indigestion, or the feeling of pain or discomfort in your abdomen.” said Isabel Valdez, PA, assistant professor of Medicine at Baylor. “Repeated instances of GERD can damage the lining of your esophagus and lead to more serious issues.”

The most common dishes that cause indigestion are those that are spicy, acidic or high in fat. On the Thanksgiving table, dishes that could fall into these categories include:

  • Cranberry sauce
  • Dishes with lemon, oranges or another citrus
  • Dishes with bacon or other fatty pork in them
  • Dishes with tomatoes
  • Gravy and salsas
  • Vegetables cooked in butter
  • Alcohol and coffee
  • Chocolates
  • Foods with peppermint

If you know you are sensitive to these foods, Valdez says to fill your plate with cuts of lean turkey and ham as well as steamed veggies, salads, dressings and whole grains. If needed, flavored yogurts, which are less harsh on the stomach, can be substituted for dessert.

Thanksgiving can also be a stressful time for many, and people may turn to medications like ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin for pain relief for headaches; however, these can aggravate an already irritated stomach. Acetaminophen should be substituted instead as it will not exacerbate GERD symptoms.

Those with a history of GERD have a few over-the-counter medications that can be used to ensure Thanksgiving meals don’t cause discomfort. Valdez recommends trying H2 blockers like famotidine or cimetidine if you develop indigestion. To prevent stomachaches, proton pump inhibitors, like omeprazole, can reduce the amount of stomach acid secreted during digestion. These should be taken on an empty stomach. If you begin experiencing indigestion or other GERD-related symptoms after you eat, medications like calcium carbonate are also widely available and can be taken to ease pain.

While these medications can relieve symptoms in a pinch, Valdez says these medications are not a long-term solution and that those experiencing symptoms of GERD for longer than two weeks, even with assistance from medication, should seek out a medical expert to check for more serious issues.

Some people may look to carbonated beverages to ease stomach discomfort, but these will only intensify any discomfort due to increased amounts of bloating from the carbonation or worsen indigestion due to the introduction of more caffeine. Valdez says the best non-medication related solution is to approach your Thanksgiving meal with moderation in mind.

“It may seem like there are a lot of foods that are off-limits, but if you make sure your plate is balanced and you do not overeat, you lessen the chances of experiencing any GERD-related symptoms,” Valdez said.

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