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Struggling with holiday heartburn after your Thanksgiving meal? You’re not alone

Heartburn, also known as gastroesophageal reflux, affects about 20% of the U.S. population, according to the National Institutes of Health.

AUSTIN, Texas — If you’re like most people on the holidays, overeating is just part of the day’s events.

But overeating is one of the first things that can cause heartburn, along with many others when it comes to the holiday diet.

“The holidays are a time when you're going to be maybe eating more than you normally would and being with family, and so heartburn is normal in normal patients. However, during the holidays when you overeat, you can really exacerbate some of those symptoms,” said Dr. Tripp Buckley with UT Health Austin’s Heartburn and Esophageal Disorders Center.

Buckley’s tips for minimizing heartburn include:

  • Avoid overeating. “When we overeat, we distend our stomach and that's going to naturally lead to reflux into the esophagus,” Buckley said.
  • Avoid lying down right after eating – and consider waiting up to three hours. “If you do eat a heavy meal and you lie down, you're really going to have a tough afternoon or evening,” Buckley said.
  • Avoid nicotine, caffeine, tobacco, alcohol and natural mints. “[Those] substances will actually relax the lower esophageal sphincter that's right between your esophagus and your stomach,” Buckley said.

If you are struggling with holiday heartburn, there are a few different treatments to get relief:

  • Tums or Rolaids neutralize the acid in your stomach and offer immediate relief
  • Pepcid is the next level of relief, which reduces the amount of acid in your stomach
  • Nexium or Prilosec are the highest level of relief, but not immediate


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Water can also help dilute the acid in your stomach, Buckley said.

And there are surgical options and tests that can be done if there are concerns about persistent heartburn.

“If you're having reflux or heartburn and you've been treating yourself for more than five years, or you've been on medication for more than five years, I think it's time to see a gastroenterologist or a specialist,” Buckley said.

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