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10 Tips for Holiday Heartburn

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Today is the Winter Solstice which means we are in full holiday mode.  No matter which one you celebrate this time of year, it’s bound to be full of rich foods, drinks and some stress.  The perfect combination for heartburn.

Here are 10 tips to help you prevent and treat holiday heartburn:

  1. Eat Mindfully. It’s very easy to get caught up in the moment, mindlessly noshing on handfuls of nuts and chocolates, then hors d'oeuvres, wash it down with a cocktail or three, then dinner, desserts, eggnog...  The next thing you know, you’ve been eating for 3 hours straight, your stomach feels like it might explode and your chest is on fire from the acid backing up into your esophagus.  Before you head down that road, decide what you really want to eat before you start stuffing your face.  Pay attention to every time you put food to your mouth.  Savor each bite.  Enjoy it.  Your stomach will thank you for it later.
  2. Limit trigger foods. For many people acidic foods such as fatty foods, tomatoes, coffee, chocolate, caffeine, citrus and especially spicy food, can trigger heartburn. Whatever your trigger foods are, consider minimizing them or eliminating them entirely.
  3. Limit alcohol. Alcohol is a major culprit because it tends to impair the movement of the esophageal sphincter which keeps food and acid in the stomach and out of our throats.  That means acid has a greater chance of backing up from the stomach to the esophagus, leading to heartburn.  Alcohol can increase stomach acid in low doses but decrease it in large doses.  This means food might not get fully digested, causing gas, bloating and yup, more heartburn.  Alternate alcoholic beverages with water to minimize these effects.
  4. Limit Nicotine. Cigarettes actually reduce the amount of saliva in your mouth and that saliva has enzymes that can help you digest food and also bicarbonate, which is an acid neutralizer which protects your esophagus.  Nicotine also increases stomach acid production, which is why people think it can help you digest.  While that is true, it also impairs the function of the esophageal sphincter, like alcohol.
  5. Take Probiotics and/or Digestive Enzymes.  Probiotics will help protect your stomach’s and intestines beneficial bacteria which can help them function better and digestive enzymes can help break down foods that are challenging for your to digest.  Both can help reduce the backing up of food and acid.
  6. Exercise. If you can squeeze in a workout sometime before you start drinking and dining, you’ll be less stressed out and more likely to make better food choices.  Plus, your digestive system will be primed and ready to process the food you do eat.
  7. Take HCL - Some people find taking hydrochloric acid pills will stop heartburn.  If your stomach isn’t producing enough acid, food will sit in your stomach and the acid you do have will start to build up.  By taking HCL, you are adding the proper acid to help your stomach move the food through your stomach.
  8. Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey. For the same reason that some people find HCL useful, they also find a shot of apple cider vinegar mixed with a little honey useful.  The vinegar adds the needed acid and the honey coats it on the way down so the vinegar doesn’t cause any extra irritation to the throat.
  9. Natural anti-inflammatories. Certain herbs such as Slippery Elm and Marshmallow Root have anti-inflammatory actions and are also soothing to the throat and esophagus.  Aloe Vera Juice also has cooling properties which can be helpful.  Green tea has anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory properties and can be soothing to a hot, acidic stomach.
  10. Chinese Herbs. Depending on your type of heartburn, there are different chinese herbs that can work for you.  See your practitioner to find out what is best for you to take.

Have a wonderful holiday, full of love, joy, and gratitude!

*This blog is for informative purposes only.  Always consult a licensed medical doctor before making any changes to your diet or exercise plan or before taking any supplements.