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Don’t Let Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Ruin Your Thanksgiving

Stony Brook Doctor gives tips for a happy and healthy holiday during GERD Awareness Week
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STONY BROOK, NY, NOVEMBER 21, 2014 – The holiday season is upon us and most of these days and nights, are full of delicious festivities! However, there are millions of Americans who anticipate these celebrations with the fear of heartburn.

Occasional episodes of “heartburn” are common; it is that burning sensation in the chest that at least 60 million Americans experience once a month normally following meals containing fatty or fried foods, alcohol, or chocolate.  When symptoms become more frequent, persistent or are associated with “alarm symptoms” such as weight loss or difficulty swallowing, a consultation with a physician is necessary to evaluate for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and associated complications.

Smart choices at holiday parties and at the dinner table will ensure you spend more time with friends and family and less time at the medicine cabinet looking for relief. During GERD Awareness Week, November 23 – 29, Juan Carlos Bucobo, MD, Director of Endoscopy at Stony Brook University Hospital shares a few tips to follow during the holiday season to minimize the burn and enjoy our holiday favorites. 

1.  Nibble don’t hoard: Overeating and eating too fast will increase the chances of heartburn if you are predisposed.  Smaller portions separated over time will decrease the chances you will burn in agony.

2.  Identify the culprits: Certain foods are more likely to worsen GERD and heartburn.  These include fatty foods, spicy foods, onions, garlic, caffeine, chocolate, citrus fruits and juices and mints.

3.  Kick the habit: There’s no reason to wait for New Year’s to start your resolutions and stop smoking.  Nicotine reduces the pressure of the muscle between the esophagus and stomach increasing the likelihood of acid reflux amongst other deleterious effects. 

4.  Avoid lying down after dinner:Although the myth about turkey causing sleepiness may have been busted, overeating and alcohol are sure to make you want to snooze after a holiday meal.  Resist the urge to lie down within 3 hours of eating as it is likely to worsen your heartburn.

5.  Skip the eggnog: Alcohol, especially in large quantities and particularly red wine, has been implicated to worsen heartburn.  If you are going to drink alcohol, do so in moderation (and of course don’t drive!)

6.  Seek out help: There are several categories of over-the-counter medications available to ease the burn.  When symptoms become frequent, more than 2-3 times per week, visiting a doctor is important in establishing the diagnosis and prescribe the most effective treatment.