Don’t Let Heartburn Hurt Your Holidays

Guest Blogger – Zippi Dvash, Asst. VP of Public Affairs for Long Island College Hospital

heartburnHeartburn is a “burning” problem for over 60 million Americans each month. Recent surveys show that 66% of people experience heartburn symptoms after splurging on food and alcohol, such as the large meals, rich desserts and alcohol consumed around Christmas and New Year celebrations.  Do you suffer from this problem?  Follow me below the fold for some useful information.


“Over the years we have seen an increase in the number of patients complaining of severe heartburn, mainly triggered by excessive eating and drinking,” says Kirk Zachary, MD, a gastroenterologist at Brooklyn’s Long Island College Hospital (LICH).  “We recommend they reduce portions and spend extra time exercising – walk to and from the restaurant instead of driving or taking a cab.”  


What Is Heartburn?

Despite its name, heartburn doesn’t affect the heart. It occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus (food pipe), causing a burning feeling in the lower chest, along with a sour or bitter taste in the throat and mouth.  Most people experience heartburn after eating a big meal or while lying down. The feeling can last for a few minutes or a few hours.  The symptoms are hard to ignore.

“Heartburn is common, and an occasional episode is generally nothing to worry about,” says Dr. Zachary.  “Frequent heartburn, however, can be a serious problem, and it deserves medical attention, as it is the most common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – a far more serious medical condition.”


What Triggers Heartburn

Heartburn is most common after overeating, when bending over or when lying down.  Simple medications such as aspirin can increase heartburn, as can everyday stress.  The most common causes, though, are food and beverage.  Dr. Zachary has created a list of foods and beverages that can aggravate heartburn symptoms:


  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee (both regular and decaffeinated), caffeinated drinks, carbonated drinks
  • Fatty foods, fried foods or spicy foods Onions
  • Red sauces such as ketchup and marinara sauce

How To Prevent Heartburn

In addition to reducing food intake at that special dinner with your loved one, Dr. Zachary also suggest the following prevention methods:


  • Don’t overeat
  • Avoid deep-fried foods
  • Wait at least 2 to 3 hours after a meal before laying down. If you take naps, try sleeping in a chair.
  • Avoid tight clothes and tight belts.


 “Over the counter medications such as antacids will take care of most heartburn,” says Zachary.  “But the most important thing to love before the holiday is moderation.”

8 Responses to “Don’t Let Heartburn Hurt Your Holidays”

  1. Gia Cioffi-Norment

    More insight on the dreaded heartburn attack!

    Acid reflux juices include hydrochloric acid, the corrosive substance used in industry to clean metal. Whereas the stomach has a protective lining so that it doesn’t succumb to the acid, the esophagus has no such lining. In most cases that shark like attack on the refrigerator is the most common cause, but it’s not the only one. Some people suffer from heartburn even without overindulging. Here are some tips to help “squelch the fire:

    Don’t overdo it, eating too much food too fast forces food up into the esophagus.

    Don’t lie flat, yes, you feel miserable, and you’re inclined to recline. Don’t! If you do, you’ll have gravity working against you. When you finally do lie down, elevate the head of your bed 4 to 6 inches.

    Take an antacid like an over-the-counter antacid such as Maalox or WinGel will generally bring fast relief from occasional heartburn

    Don’t make your problem worse with bad advice. You might have heard that some things, like milk or mints, are good for heartburn. What’s wrong with milk and mints? Mints are one of several foods that tend to relax your lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, the little valve whose job it is to keep acid in your stomach—and the little lid that can often protect you even when you do overindulge.

    What’s wrong with milk? It’s this: Fats, proteins, and calcium in milk can stimulate the stomach to secrete acid. Some people recommend milk for heartburn—but there’s a problem with it, it feels good going down, but it does stimulate acid secretion in the stomach.

    Go easy on the caffeine, because caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, and cola may irritate an already inflamed esophagus. Caffeine also relaxes the sphincter.

    Shun the world’s worst-for-you dessert. What’s the number-one food to avoid when you’re suffering from heartburn? Chocolate, this sweet confection deals heartburn sufferers a double whammy. It is nearly all fat, and it contains caffeine. For chocolate addicts, however, here’s good news. White chocolate, while just as fatty, has little caffeine.

    May the acid reflux not be with you!

    • Carmen Smith

      Thanks Gia, for the tips. I have suffered with gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) for many years and can attest to what you have written. Warm milk does feel soothing going down, and it makes you sleepy. However, just as soon as you give in to that glorious feeling of sleep, the sphincter of the esophagus relaxes and the acid reflux begins. I have spent many nights sleeping in my recliner.

      The symptoms of GERD can include heartburn, chest discomfort, and a bitter fluid backing up into the mouth. I didn’t realize that this was hydrochloric acid or that it is the same corrosive substance used in industry to clean metal – that was definitely an eye opener!

      Thanks for the post.

  2. Donna Atkins

    My goodness, Gia, you have a wealth of information to share! I am dazzled and really appreciate the time and thought you put into your comment. I actually know someone who had reflux and just “lived” on chocolate – who knew! Thanks for the information and I look forward to you posting again – you rock!

  3. Jenny Crespo

    Personally I have had situation where I experience some sort of heart burn after I eat. I resolved this issue usually by simply not eating my food so fast (which is a bad habit of mine because I am used to always eating with a time limit). I realized that if I don’t have time to really enjoy a full plate that I should cut it down to a light amount. The lighter or the smaller the portion you eat when you have a short amount of time the better you feel and less likely I am to experience symptoms of heartburn.

    I also realized that eating the wrong combination of food could trigger heartburn. For example, when consuming alcoholic drinks I never like to mix it with anything that is acidic, such as orange juice (unless it states that it has reduced acid then it’s fine) or drinking acidic drinks with greasy or spicy foods. This combination will most certainly cause me to have severe heart burn.

  4. I’m really suprised at how many people suffer from this problem. At the hospital where I work, the emergency department receives alot of patients complaining of heartburn, sometimes so bad that we have to admit them to make sure it’s nothing cardiac related.

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  7. Unfortunately my favorite foods and beverages are on your “avoid” list. Two heartburn remedies that can help once you have heartburn are chewing sugarless gum and eating Gala apples, sliced thin. Chew them slowly until almost liquefied.

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