AARP Eye Center
If you're prone to heartburn or acid reflux, then a big food-focused holiday like Thanksgiving can be an uncomfortable time.
So beat the burn -- by choosing the right foods and drinks.
Follow these tips for a more enjoyable holiday:
*Be a nibbler, not a gobbler. Large portions, and eating too quickly, can cause stomach acid to bubble up and irritate the sensitive tissues of the esophagus -- the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. Eat small portions, or even a series of small meals spaced over several hours, instead of sitting down to one heaping plate of food that your stomach can't handle.
*Choose low-acid foods. It's not always the acid coming up from the stomach that's the problem, but the acid in some foods going down the esophagus that causes irritation, says Jamie Koufman, M.D., author of "Dropping Acid: The Reflux Diet Cookbook and Cure." Stick with low-acid foods like bananas, broccoli, green beans, carrots, oatmeal, whole grains, fish and skinless poultry (including white meat turkey).
Highly acidic foods and drinks you should avoid include all processed and bottled foods because federal rules require high acidity as a preservative. Some examples: All carbonated beverages (including diet soda), bottled fruit drinks and bottled sauces. Pass up naturally high-acid foods as well, including citrus fruit and citrus juice (cranberry juice, orange juice, lemonade), tomatoes, onions and strawberries.
*Avoid the 3 C's: Chocolate, caffeine, carbonation. All of these are known to aggravate reflux symptoms.
*Go for baked or roasted, but not mashed. High-fat dishes, like potatoes or sweet potatoes mashed with butter and sour cream, are often an acid reflux trigger. A baked potato with low-fat toppings or roasted potato wedges are a better choice.
*Chew gum. Skip the after-dinner mint, which can trigger heartburn, and instead chew a piece of gum. Recent studies have shown that chewing sugar-free gum after a meal can reduce acid reflux for up to three hours.
*Don't sit. The worst thing you can do for your heartburn is to go sit down -- or worse, lie down -- after eating. Wait at least 30 minutes before sitting. Better yet, go for a walk -- it will help your food digest. If you must lie down, lie on your left side with your head elevated to reduce heartburn, studies show. It keeps all that food from pressing on the entrance to the esophagus, which is on the right side of your body,
*Go easy on alcohol. Too much alcohol causes the esophagus muscles to relax, allowing more acid to leak in from the stomach. A small glass of wine may be fine, but try to avoid beer because of the carbonation.
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