ST. LOUIS – For many, Thanksgiving not only means giving thanks, but it also means a big dinner and football.
So, let’s say you’ve polished off three helpings of turkey and dressing and you’re lying on the couch to catch the second half of the Cowboys game. That heartburn you feel could be more serious than you think.
It could be GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Gastroesophageal reflux describes a backflow of acid from the stomach into the esophagus. Almost everyone experiences this intense feeling at some point. The usual symptom is heartburn, an uncomfortable burning sensation behind the breastbone, most commonly occurring after a big meal. However, when this happens frequently, you may have GERD.
C. Prakash Gyawali, MD, Washington University gastroenterologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, says that while many holiday activities and treats can create a “perfect storm” for GERD sufferers, it’s a treatable problem.
“The treatment for GERD starts with some degree of lifestyle modification,” he says. “Reduce pro-GERD factors: keep the meals from being too large, don’t eat too much at a single setting, be careful not to overeat just before lying down – these can definitely help reduce symptoms. People can sometimes wake up with heartburn if they eat large meals before reclining. Also, avoid particularly high fat meals, especially too much holiday treats like chocolate and dessert, another problem during the holidays.”
GERD is very common. Approximately 10 percent of people have symptoms on a daily basis, and according to Dr. Gyawali, indulging at Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t help matters:
“Unfortunately many of the good things in life lower pressure in the lower bottom part of the esophagus and allow stomach contents to reflux into the esophagus. These things can include alcohol, cigarettes, chocolate, high fat food – many of the things that people may overindulge in over the holidays. These can all worsen GERD symptoms in people with reflux disease,” says Dr. Gyawali.
The four major symptoms of GERD are:
* Regurgitation of gastric acid or sour contents into the mouth
* Difficult and/or painful swallowing
* Chest pain
While these symptoms are all uncomfortable, Dr. Gyawali says hope is not lost for GERD sufferers.
“The good news about GERD is that it is very treatable,” he says. “It’s the kind of disorder that can be managed well with medications in the vast majority of patients. For those who either cannot tolerate medications or do not do well with them, there are other options available to them.”
Dr. Gyawali adds GERD tends to be a chronic problem and says people should meet with their doctor if symptoms persist.
For many, Thanksgiving not only means giving thanks, but it also means a big dinner. That heartburn you feel could be more serious than you think. It could be GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease.