Don't Let Acid Reflux Ruin Your Thanksgiving

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When people sit down on Thanksgiving to turkey, stuffing, gravy, sweet potato casserole, cranberries, and pie, the last thing they want to think about is acid reflux. Yet Thanksgiving is synonymous with overeating, and eating too much is one of the main reasons people suffer with acid reflux and heartburn.

About 60 million Americans say they experience acid reflux at least once a month. Acid reflux, also called gastroesophageal reflux (GER), occurs when a muscle called the esophageal sphincter, which is at the bottom of the esophagus tube, opens spontaneously for different periods of time or does not close correctly, and contents from the stomach rise up into the esophagus. GER is the much more common and less serious form of GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Millions of people turn to prescription and over-the-counter medications to help control acid reflux, including Aciphex, Nexium, Pepcid, Prevacid, Prilosec, Reglan, Zantac, and various antiacids. But there are other things you can take or tricks you can try to relieve the symptoms of acid reflux without taking these medications.

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One obvious solution is to not overeat, and one way to conquer this challenge on Thanksgiving is to break up the meal. The best scenario would be to divide it into two or three meals: the soup and salad course, followed by the main course, and then dessert. Between each course, everyone can take a walk or socialize.

Before you begin your first course, or as part of it, eat a few fresh apple slices or use a tablespoon of unfiltered apple cider vinegar on your salad (or take it straight). Choose raw fruits and vegetables if they are offered. The living enzymes in these raw foods can help prevent acid reflux.

Once you sit down to eat, avoid fatty foods (watch that gravy) and items such as caffeine, chocolate, fried foods, spicy foods, tomatoes and tomato-based products, and alcohol. After you have finished eating, don’t lie down. To help avoid acid reflux, get up and walk about or take a relaxing stroll around the neighborhood.

Some people get relief from acid reflux if they chew gum, as chewing gum increases the production of saliva, which contains bicarbonate, and the need to swallow, which may help neutralize the acid in the esophagus. After eating, you can treat yourself to a teaspoon of baking soda stirred into a glass of water. This treatment should be done only occasionally, because baking soda can impact electrolyte levels. Another natural approach is to take papaya or pineapple extract (bromelain) after your Thanksgiving meal for mild acid reflux.

This Thanksgiving, when you are giving thanks along with your family and friends, perhaps you will also be thankful that you did not experience acid reflux if you try one or more of the suggestions here. Happy Thanksgiving.

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