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The holidays are upon us. The season is in full swing. The turkey and stuffing and ham and green bean casserole have been devoured. Along with pie and cookies and cake and maybe a little too much alcohol… And we’ll do it all again (and possibly again and again) before we ring in the New Year with even more bad choices when it comes to eating and drinking.

You know what that all leads to?


Among other not-so-friendly bodily reactions.

As indulgent as we are throughout the holidays, a lot of us don’t get away with it without paying for it. We may pack on a few extra pounds. Or, we may end up with a serious case of heartburn, indigestion, and/or acid reflux.

But what are they really?

Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus irritating the tissue. Symptoms include regurgitation of acid into the throat or mouth, a bitter taste in the mouth, upset stomach, belching, nausea after eating, feeling full, stomach and upper abdomen bloating, dry cough, wheezing, hoarseness, feeling of tightness in the throat, and in some people, vomiting.

Heartburn, or acid indigestion, is a symptom of acid reflux, aptly named because the esophagus lies just behind the heart, and that is where the burning sensation is felt which can be uncomfortable at best. It may also be accompanied by a sour or bitter taste in the mouth or throat which occurs after eating a big meal or lying down (after said big meal — we’re looking at you, Thanksgiving dinner). 

Indigestion is usually called an upset stomach, a stomachache, or even a bellyache, but the medical term is dyspepsia. Whatever you call it, indigestion is an uncomfortable, sometimes painful, feeling you get in your stomach, usually during or after eating. It’s mostly caused by eating too much, too fast, or by eating foods that your body doesn’t respond well to, typically foods high in fat. 

And mind your manners because chewing with your mouth open also can lead to indigestion. Swallowing too much air while eating can cause belching and bloating, which is another variation of indigestion. Stress, smoking, or drinking caffeinated, carbonated, or alcoholic drinks can also trigger indigestion. 

There’s also GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), which is a chronic condition in which the acidified liquid content of the stomach backs up into the esophagus. This liquid can inflame and damage the lining (esophagitis). The regurgitated liquid usually contains acid and pepsin that are produced by the stomach. The refluxed liquid also may contain bile that has backed-up into the stomach from the duodenum — the first part of the small intestine attached to the stomach. It’s the acid that is to be the most injurious component of the refluxed liquid. 

Unfortunately, once GERD begins, it usually is life-long. 

All of these make for the unpleasant aftermath of holiday shenanigans. Conveniently, they all share their most common triggers:

  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Poor posture (slouching)
  • Certain medications (calcium channel blockers, theophylline, nitrates, antihistamines)
  • Certain foods (fatty and fried foods, chocolate, garlic and onions, caffeinated drinks, acidic foods such as citrus fruits and tomatoes, spicy foods, mint)
  • Eating large meals
  • Eating too quickly
  • Eating before bedtime
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes
  • Increase in stomach acid (from stress, Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, stomach tumors)
  • Weight gain

So if you must indulge in all the yummy goodness that this holiday season has to offer, make sure you do so in moderation. A little wisdom and a lot of self-control can help you finish your year being merry and bright instead of bloated and belchy, 

Here’s to a fabulous Christmas!


But not too much…