It’s the end of the year, and everyone is busy eating, drinking, and being merry. While the year may have been an eventful one, celebrating the achievement of making it to the end is well deserved.
However, too much of a good thing can have less than desired results—for example, heartburn after a delicious, hearty Christmas meal.
Did you know that many people experience heartburn after indulging during the holidays?
This condition is so common that in a study conducted in 2007, as many as 24% of participants experienced heartburn symptoms in the past year, and more than half of them experienced it at Christmas time.
You may not think you’re eating too much – but even one large meal can cause indigestion if your stomach isn’t used to it.
However, there are ways to alleviate your symptoms, so you don’t have to miss out on the holiday festivities. Find out how to relieve your symptoms and get back to enjoying Christmas with your loved ones.
What Is Heartburn?
Heartburn is the feeling that many people get in their chest when they overeat or experience indigestion. The word “heartburn” has nothing to do with pain coming from your heart but can sometimes be mistaken for heart symptoms due to where this discomfort starts.
One of the most common digestive issues, heartburn, is a burning sensation in your chest that occurs when stomach acid comes up and irritates the lining at the back or bottom part of your oesophagus. This leads to pain ranging from mild (just feeling uncomfortable) to severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing.
However, it’s important to note that not everyone who experiences heartburn is immediately diagnosed with acid reflux or GERD (gastro-oesophagal reflux disease).
Who Is At Risk Of Experiencing Heartburn?
To find out if you’re likely to experience heartburn, you first need to know about the common causes.
Numerous factors can increase your likelihood of experiencing heartburn, of which diet and lifestyle selections play a considerable role.
Heartburn, in general, has been associated with foods that are spicy, acidic or oily, which is why the frequency of heartburn increases during Christmas, where food options tend to be a little more unhealthy than on a regular day.
Moreover, heartburn can also be triggered by the consumption of alcohol, carbonated beverages, and caffeinated drinks, all of which are relatively common at parties.
If you’re planning to have an enjoyable celebration, try to limit your consumption of these foods and drinks, and you will be lowering your risk of experiencing heartburn significantly.
How Will I Know If I Have Heartburn?
Apart from the telling signs of discomfort or burning sensation in your chest after a meal, heartburn can also lead to other symptoms such as worsening pain when lying down or bending over.
Additionally, people with heartburn have also experienced a bitter or acidic taste in the mouth; this is usually brought forth by acid reflux, where stomach acid and contents are regurgitated up the oesophagus, bringing about the bitter taste.
What’s the difference between Heartburn, Acid Reflux and GERD?
You may have heard of heartburn, acid reflux and GERD, but did you know that they are not the same thing?
In short, heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux and GERD.
On the other hand, acid reflux is a medical condition where stomach contents are regurgitated back up the oesophagus, leading to a backflow of acid contents. GERD is an advanced form of acid reflux and may pose serious issues to the patient if it’s left untreated.
For most people, heartburn is the initial sign that you may have acid reflux, although not all cases of heartburn are caused by acid reflux.
What Are The Treatment Options Available?
When lifestyle changes are made early, heartburn can be treated before the symptoms worsen and lead to acid reflux.
You may consider:
- Adjusting your meals times and bedtime. Lying down on the bed immediately after a meal can lead to acid reflux, as the contents have yet to be digested. Consider waiting at least three hours after a meal before you lie down or go to bed.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Stop smoking. Smoking decreases the lower oesophageal sphincter’s ability to function correctly. As a result, the acid may flow back up the oesophagus with the weakening of the muscles.
- Stop drinking alcohol, tea, coffee and carbonated drinks. Alcohol or acidic beverages can cause the tissue along the stomach to be more sensitive to acid, which can aggravate your GERD symptoms.
- Elevating the head of your bed.
- Consuming food slowly and chewing thoroughly.
- Avoiding food and drinks that trigger acid reflux.
- Avoiding tight-fitting clothes.
By making these small changes in your life, you help lower the risk of developing acid reflux later down the road.
How Can I Manage The Symptoms Of Heartburn Around The Holidays?
With that said, lifestyle changes are one way to manage heartburn, but if you are already experiencing Christmas heartburn for years, perhaps it is time you tried getting some over the counter medication ahead of your feast.
Most over-the-counter medications are targeted at neutralising stomach acidity or reducing acid production. This way, you lower the risk of acid regurgitation, which causes the burning sensation in your chest.
Typical forms of over-the-counter medication include antacids, H2 receptor blockers, and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). If you are unsure which is best for you, consider seeking professional advice before making your purchase.
However, medication may not be the most effective way of treating heartburn. In some cases, our doctor may recommend surgery, especially if you are diagnosed with GERD, which can seriously affect your health.
When Should I See A Doctor About Heartburn?
Not all cases of heartburn are serious. However, if you notice a more frequent recurrence of heartburn, you might want to seek professional medical advice.
You should seek medical advice if:
- You experience heartburn more than twice a week
- Medications are unable to reduce the symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux
- You have difficulty eating or swallowing
- You experience frequent nausea or vomiting
- You experience sudden weight loss
Additionally, seek immediate help if you experience severe chest pains, as they can also be signs of a heart attack.
Anyone can experience heartburn, particularly after a large meal. However, certain factors can make you more prone to the condition. These include pregnancy, stress, certain medications (including anti-inflammatory painkillers), excess weight, or a type of hernia known as a hiatal hernia.
It may also be triggered by certain foods, such as alcohol, fatty foods, chocolate and citrus fruit – all foods many expect to enjoy during a traditional Christmas. And wearing clothes that constrict your tummy, such as tight belts or trousers, girdles or dresses, can all make you more prone to heartburn.