How to Take GERD Off the Thanksgiving Menu

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It spoils a Thanksgiving gathering as reliably as spilled gravy: gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.

About 1 in 4 adults in Orange County suffer from daily chronic reflux and take a PPI (an anti-acid medication) to help control their symptoms. Add stuffing, turkey, cranberries, creamed corn, dinner rolls, rice, pumpkin pie (you get the idea), and that chronic reflux can turn into something truly debilitating at the holidays.

“We all have what’s called physiological reflux occasionally and that’s normal but chronic reflux or GERD isn’t normal and can be present regardless of what, when and how much we eat” said Dr. Phoenix Nguyen, director of therapeutic endoscopy at Hoag.

“GERD is caused by a hiatal hernia and a defective valve. This happens when a small portion of the stomach has moved up above the diaphragm. Minimally invasive surgery like endoscopic fundoplication (creation of a new valve at the bottom of the esophagus) with robotic hiatal hernia repair can fix the problem. Both are offered at Hoag Digestive Heath Institute in Newport Beach.”

We all want to enjoy the foods we love and enjoy during this special time that only comes once a year. But let’s be mindful of what we eat, how much and how quickly.

If you are suffering from GERD, make an appointment with your primary care physician at www.hoaghealth.org. To avoid heartburn at the holidays, Dr. Nguyen offers a few tips:

Don’t Gobble-Gobble. You’re no turkey! Instead of gobbling up large plates of food, take a smaller plate and nibble. Eating slowly will help ensure that you don’t overeat, and it will help you reduce your risk of reflux.
 
Make A Do-Not Invite List. Just because you open your door wide to your relatives does not mean you need to open your mouth wide to their questionable potluck offerings. Keep track of the foods that give you issues and avoid them whenever possible. 
 
Smash That Cigarette. Nicotine ignites reflux by reducing the pressure of the muscles between the esophagus and stomach. There are 100 reasons to quit smoking, of course, so consider this reason #101. 
 
Take A Walk. Laying down with a stomach full of food can trigger acid reflux and make heartburn symptoms worse. Avoid laying down for three hours after you’ve eaten. Instead, gather the family and go for a post-dinner stroll. Multiple studies have found that a 15-minute post-meal walk helps with digestion. Step out this year, and it just may become a family Thanksgiving tradition!