GERD :: Fatty foods, alcohol and overeating are triggers for acid reflux

“The holiday season is clearly one of the worst times of the year for patients with GERD,” gastroenterologist Dr. William Chey, of the University of Michigan Health System, said in a prepared statement.

“The large amounts of food we eat during the holidays, and the types of food served during the holidays — especially fatty and caffeinated foods — can be a recipe for disaster for chronic heartburn sufferers,” Chey said.

People with GERD have a relaxed or weakened lower esophageal sphincter — the muscular valve between the stomach and the esophagus. This type of weakened valve doesn’t properly block stomach acid from flowing back up into the esophagus.

After they eat, people with GERD often experience a burning feeling in their chest and a sour taste in their mouth. Some GERD symptoms can be relieved by making lifestyle changes, such as not eating certain kinds of foods and avoiding large meals.

Chey offered the following holiday tips for people with GERD:

Don’t overeat. “Large amounts of food distend, or stretch the stomach, which can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax and release acid back up through the esophagus.”

Avoid caffeinated beverages and foods that can aggravate GERD symptoms.

Don’t eat fatty, greasy foods. “Excessive fats in foods work to slow the process of food leaving the stomach. If food isn’t emptied from the stomach, it can back up into the esophagus,” Chey said. Fatty and greasy foods also promote relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter.

Don’t drink red wine, which as been shown to cause heartburn. White wine can also be a problem, the expert said.

The time of day can affect GERD symptoms. “Gravity actually serves as an important barrier for acid reflux during the day. So, when you lie down at night after eating a meal, you no longer have that gravity barrier to prevent acid reflux,” Chey said. People who tend to have GERD symptoms at night should not eat or drink anything for three to four hours before bedtime.

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