Avoid Thanksgiving-induced gastrointestinal reflux disease

By Shayna Brouker • Published: November 23rd, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

This week, Americans will gather around the dinner table to devour slices of succulent oven-roasted turkey, mounds of buttery garlic mashed potatoes doused in gravy and gobs of green bean casserole, finished with a few slices of pie and some glasses of wine. Thanksgiving is our country’s favorite eating holiday, but all the noshing can be a nightmare for those who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD [ger-d].

Thanksgiving happens to fall on the same week as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Awareness Week, so as the day of gluttony approaches, it’s timely to review what GERD is in the first place and which foods at the dinner table are likely to induce frequent heartburn.

The trouble with GERD starts in the esophagus, the tube that transports food from throat to tummy. A valve in the esophagus normally closes to keep food in its place, but with GERD, it cracks open and lets stomach acid and juices gurgle back up. The result is heartburn, that burning pain behind the breastbone. Lying down or leaning forward can also bring it on.

Frequent, long-lasting heartburn isn’t just an annoying aftertaste from an acidic supper; it can be diagnosed as GERD, and should be treated to prevent stomach ulcers and damage to the esophagus. But there are some foods to pass on in the first place to keep the burn at bay this Turkey Day.

Garlic and onions may ward off vampires, but they bring on the pain. Peppermint and alcohol relax the sphincter, allowing stomach acids to bubble up. And fatty, spicy foods are always a risk, so go easy on the gravy, dark meat and pecan pie. Caffeine and chocolate can also cause problems.

Chewing slowly, limiting alcohol and sipping ginger tea can soothe the stomach, and the good news is baked potatoes, rolls, white meat and pumpkin pie are safe bets. Now that’s something to be thankful for.