It wouldn’t be a holiday without lots of eating, favourites like braais, rich desserts, and drinks.
Unfortunately, some of our favourite foods can trigger heartburn. Heartburn is characterised by an incessant burning sensation in the chest and throat.
But how can you put an end to the churning and searing uncomfortable feeling so you may savour your favourite festive foods?
According to Pharma Dynamics, a quarter of adults suffer from heartburn at least once a month, which is likely to be exacerbated by the festive season.
Marli Botha, Over-the-Counter (OTC) product manager at Pharma Dynamics, claims that the holiday party season may turn into a marathon of fatty food and alcoholic beverages that leave guests with bloated stomachs and indigestion.
“Big meals overload the digestive system, leading to heartburn and stomach trouble. Fatty, greasy, citrusy, or tomato-based meals can also trigger indigestion. Sugary treats, chocolate, fizzy drinks, and alcohol – all of which will be in abundance this time of year –increase the amount of acid in our stomach,” she said.
According to her, heartburn occurs when stomach acid moves into the oesophagus, which is less acid-resistant. This then leads to irritation and damage to the lining of the oesophagus, causing a physical burn.
While anybody can have heartburn once in a while, “medical intervention is necessary for chronic heartburn, which is defined as having symptoms at least twice per week,'' said Botha.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD, is another name for chronic heartburn. GERD can also result in a bitter taste in the mouth, coughing, flatulence, excessive belching, and wheezing in addition to the typical burning sensation in the chest.
If GERD isn’t managed, it could lead to other health issues, such as:
- Oesophagitis (stomach acid causing the lining of the oesophagus to swell)
- Ulcers or sores in the lining of the oesophagus
- Tooth decay (stomach acid can break down the enamel, which can weaken your teeth and lead to cavities
- Oesophageal stricture (over time, stomach acid can scar the lining of the oesophagus, constricting it, which makes swallowing difficult)
- An increased risk of oesophageal
She advises that the best way to prevent and manage heartburn in the long run, is by making changes to your diet and lifestyle, although this isn’t always possible over the festive period.
Some of the ways to escape heartburn while still enjoying the holiday celebration, include:
- Avoid overindulging. Moderation in both food and drink is the healthiest approach
- Eat more fibre as this will help your food to move more quickly through your digestive tract
- Prepare your gut by taking antacids or acid-suppressants like proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) before eating. Ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice. Many options are available over the counter.
- Don’t eat too late and don’t go to bed with a full stomach
- Avoid food and drink that can trigger heartburn. Chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, and soft drinks should be enjoyed sparingly
- Eat slowly by putting your fork down between bites
- Wear loose-fitting clothes that don’t constrict your abdomen
- Wait at least two hours after a meal before you exercise, giving your stomach time to empty
- Reduce stress, as this can also bring on heartburn
- Don’t smoke. Nicotine weakens the valve that separates your stomach and oesophagus
According to Botha, keeping a healthy weight might also reduce heartburn.
She continues by stating that indigestion is a symptom directly linked to obesity or being overweight. Heartburn is exacerbated by anything that raises abdominal pressure. Even a slight weight gain can result in acid reflux.
Whole grains like oats and brown rice, sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets, as well as green vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, and green beans, are foods that are likely to prevent heartburn. Include more alkaline foods as well, such as almonds, melon, bananas, and cauliflower. Watery foods, such as watermelon, cucumber, celery, and lettuce, aid in reducing stomach acid.
“If your heartburn troubles continue to bother you after the holiday season, it’s best to speak to your doctor or pharmacist about the right treatment option(s) for you,” said Botha.
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