With the holiday season coming up, celebrating by eating and drinking ourselves silly can be the norm. Perhaps that’s why it’s called the silly season! However, for many people it can be a recipe for digestive disaster, especially those who suffer from heartburn and other reflux symptoms.
For some, consuming too much alcohol, caffeine and rich, fatty foods can spiral downwards to problems like indigestion and reflux. Once we’ve stuffed ourselves like turkeys, its all too easy to laze on the sofa afterwards and not move for hours, leading to more digestive troubles! That’s because a slouched or horizontal position with a tummy full of food, can cause more internal pressure and encourage stomach acid to get pushed into the esophagus. The slow burning sensation that works its way up from the gut is known as acid reflux or heartburn.
What causes symptoms?
Heartburn and indigestion are normally symptoms associated with a condition called GERD i.e., gastroesophageal reflux. About 50% of GERD patients also suffer throat and voice symptoms from stomach acid. This is because digestive enzymes find their way to the top of the esophagus and spill out onto the tissues at the back of the throat and around the voice box. When this occurs it is termed LPR, which means laryngopharyngeal reflux, more commonly known as silent reflux.
To ease heartburn & other reflux symptoms, try these options:
- Prepare before a big social event especially if it involves potential over-consuming. Try taking antacids beforehand e.g. Rennie, Mylanta or Tums to neutralise stomach acids. Your health professional may also suggest an alginate with antacid such as Gaviscon (tablets or liquid) to help protect the esophagus lining from refluxed acid.
- If symptoms are more severe and the above options are not enough, PPI (proton pump inhibitor) tablets e.g. Nexium Somac may be recommended. PPIs are designed to help reduce acid production in the stomach. They are available in pharmacies as a self-selected product or in larger quantities and higher dosage on prescription from a doctor. Follow instructions for use and only use as per your health professional’s recommendations.
- If throat and voice symptoms from gastric acid reflux are an issue, try a new over-the-counter treatment available in pharmacies called Larri Oral Spray. This is a pleasant-tasting minty spray designed to help protect, lubricate and soothe through 3 main ingredients:
- Magnesium Alginate – provides a barrier to protect the tissues of the throat.
- Sodium Hyaluronate – helps lubricate thick mucus in the throat and protect the tissues.
- Camelia Sinensis (Green tea extract) – helps soothe inflamed tissues of the throat.
Other tips to help control reflux
- Learn what triggers it. Keep a food diary and avoid foods that set off symptoms. Common ones include citrus juices, carbonated drinks, caffeine, alcohol, onions and tomatoes.
- Eat smaller portion sizes regularly rather than large portions all at once.
- Allow for plenty of time for digestion especially before retiring to bed e.g. 4 hours, or better still take an evening walk to aid digestion.
The holiday season is a time for enjoyment but try not to let food be the main focus. A stroll or game outside with family and friends can be more rewarding and may result in a happier digestive system!
Always read the label. Follow directions for use. If symptoms persist, change or worsen unexpectedly, talk to your health professional.