avoid heartburn

Heartburn is a common condition affecting 1 in 4 UK adults. The festive season, with its abundance of rich foods, sweet treats, and alcohol, can unfortunately be a prime time for heartburn flare-ups.

Overindulgence and the types of food and drink we consume during holidays can cause havoc for our digestive system. However, the good news is there are ways to avoid heartburn at Christmas.

Here are some effective strategies for managing heartburn and for reducing the risk of discomfort of a flare-up.

Limiting foods that trigger heartburn

Heartburn is the burning feeling caused by stomach acid travelling up from the chest towards the throat, also known as acid reflux. It commonly occurs after eating. It can also cause upper abdominal pain, with bloating and belching. Certain foods and drinks are well-known triggers for heartburn. During the holiday season we also tend to indulge a bit more than usual.

To reduce the risk, it’s a good idea to limit or avoid the following foods:

  • Spicy foods
  • Citrus fruits and fruit juices
  • Hot drinks
  • Alcohol
  • Fatty or fried foods

In addition to being mindful of what you eat, pay attention to portion sizes. Overeating is a common cause of heartburn, as it puts extra pressure on the stomach, which may lead to acid reflux.

Change your routine

Timing is key in managing heartburn. Avoid eating large meals or snacking too close to bedtime. Lying down soon after eating can make it easier for stomach acid to escape into your oesophagus, triggering heartburn.

Aim to have your last meal or snack at least two to three hours before going to bed. This gives your body enough time to digest the food properly. Another way to avoid heartburn is to consider elevating the head of your bed by just a few inches. This can help prevent stomach acid from rising during the night.

Strictly speaking, this needs to be done by raising the head of the bedstead and not by popping yourself upon lots of pillows.

Make healthy lifestyle choices

Lifestyle factors play a significant role in managing heartburn. Avoiding smoking and excess alcohol are crucial, but also maintaining a healthy weight. Excess weight can increase pressure on the stomach, worsening heartburn symptoms. This can include weight gained in pregnancy. Regular exercise can help you manage your weight but be cautious with high-intensity workouts right after meals, and seek advice for safely treating symptoms during pregnancy.

Consider your clothing choices too. Tight-fitting clothes, especially around the waist, can increase the pressure on your abdomen and worsen heartburn symptoms. Opt for comfortable, loose-fitting clothing, especially when you’re planning to indulge in a festive meal.

Despite these preventative measures, if you find yourself experiencing persistent heartburn, it’s important to seek advice from a medical expert. Chronic heartburn can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or a hiatus hernia. Sometimes symptoms need to be investigated with an endoscopy or other test if treatments are not working.

For expert guidance and treatment options, schedule an appointment with Mr Michael Stellakis.