Dec. 3, 2001 -- What's the scene at
your house after that massive holiday dinner? Some camped out in front
of the football game, others napping? All that overeating and lounging
around is certainly the downside to the holiday festivities -- and it's
a sure-fire recipe for indigestion.
"People eat more than they would
during the holidays, and they eat richer, fattier foods that are slow to
empty in the stomach," says David Peura, MD, associate chief of
gastroenterology at the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center in
Peura is a spokesman for the National
Heartburn Alliance, an organization dedicated to helping people find
Sitting around or napping after
dinner -- watching football, the parades -- keeps all that food trapped.
It may be relaxing, but lying down lets gravity give stomach acid an
extra boost to creep into the esophagus. You know what happens next.
Heartburn to most people is a burning
discomfort under the breastbone," he tells WebMD. "It's the stomach
feeling a need to vent."
Most cases of heartburn are brought
on by foods high in fat. Chocolate, peppermint, citrus fruits, and
tomato-based dishes also cause some people problems. Most drinks on the
party circuit cause that rumbly-tumbly tummy, too.
To prevent heartburn, the National
Heartburn Alliance offers these suggestions:
- Save overstuffing for the turkey.
Eat smaller portions and try to avoid overeating, since a full stomach
puts extra pressure on the little valve that keeps stomach acid out of
- Minimize late-night munching and
after-dinner dozing. Merely being horizontal can encourage acid to creep
into the esophagus and cause discomfort.
- Choose wisely from the buffet
table. Try to avoid your personal food triggers.
- Add exercise to your holiday list
-- it will get your digestive system moving. Get out and walk whenever
possible, especially after big meals. Use the stairs when you can.
- Drink in moderation. Caffeinated,
carbonated, or alcoholic drinks can contribute to heartburn. Opt for a
- Lighten up in your cooking. Use
less fat in those favorite holiday recipes, substituting applesauce for
butter in baking and broiling meat instead of baking; baste your turkey
with a flavorful chicken stock instead of butter.
- Don't wear tight clothing or belts
-- it just makes heartburn worse.
- Minimize stress. Plan ahead to
avoid the last-minute holiday crunch. When schedules are packed, try
meditation and other stress-relieving activities. Too much stress can
make heartburn seem worse. Stress can also lead to other risky behaviors
like overeating and drinking.
Instead of lying down after the big
meal, take a walk with the family, Peura advises. "Go out and play a
little football rather than sitting and watching it," he says.
By all means, if you're predisposed
to heartburn, take one of the acid-lowering over-the-counter drugs,
Peura tells WebMD. "And if you're on prescription medicine, this is not
a time to forget taking it."