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Monday, December 03, 2012 - Holiday Foods May Trigger GERD Symptoms
   Clyde Collins, MD
Holiday foods and feasts can cause trouble for the estimated 30 million Americans with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), but there are things they can do to be comfortable and symptom-free, experts advise.

GERD occurs when a faulty valve between the stomach and esophagus allows stomach contents to flow back into the esophagus. Symptoms of GERD include heartburn, acid regurgitation, wheezing, sore throat and cough.

“Those that suffer from GERD can experience extreme discomfort,” said Methodist Medical Center’s newest gastroenterologist, Clyde Collins, M.D. “Complications could include inflammation of the throat and lungs, ulcers and even sinus problems.”

Things that may trigger GERD symptoms include obesity, pregnancy, smoking, excess alcohol use and consumption of fatty foods, tomato-based products, chocolate, peppermint, citrus drinks and coffee.

“To minimize discomfort, stay away from greasy and spicy foods as much as possible,” advises Collins.  “Limit consumption of some holiday pitfalls such as chocolate, mint and alcohol.  And while it’s no easy task this time of year, try to avoid eating large meals, opting instead for smaller portions.  Your stomach and esophagus will thank you later.”

Concerned you might have more than just the occasional heartburn?  Answering "yes" to two or more of the following questions may indicate that you have GERD, according to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy:

  • Do you frequently have one or more of the following: Discomfort behind the breast bone that seems to move upward from the stomach? A burning sensation in the back of your throat? A bitter acid taste in your mouth?
  • Do you often have these symptoms after a meal?
  • Do you have heartburn or acid indigestion two or more times a week?
  • Do you find that antacids only provide temporary relief from these symptoms?
  • Are you taking prescription medication to treat heartburn but still having symptoms?

If you suspect you have GERD, seek diagnosis and treatment so that you can enjoy the holidays and every day.

Treatment options include lifestyle modifications, medication, surgery or a combination of methods.