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Celebrating The Holidays While Suffering From Reflux

Holiday indulgences often exacerbate the symptoms of reflux, but Dr. Craig Zalvan has tips on minimizing the effects.
Holiday indulgences often exacerbate the symptoms of reflux, but Dr. Craig Zalvan has tips on minimizing the effects. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Reflux affects nearly 40% of the population, and as those who suffer know, holiday indulgences often exacerbate the symptoms. A person suffering from the symptoms associated with Laryngopharyngeal Reflux, LPR, or Gastroesophageal reflux disease, GERD, may feel anxiety and stress around the holidays and the idea of meals out or hosted by family and friends that can trigger flare ups.

LPR symptoms, which are of the throat and upper airway such as throat clearing, the feeling of mucus or a lump in the throat, coughing, changes in voice, burning sensation, trouble swallowing, as well as recurrent sinus and asthma symptoms, occur when acid and digestive enzymes, as well as acidic foods and beverages, irritate the lining of the throat, voice box, and airway. LPR is often misdiagnosed as allergies, asthma, and sinus problems like post-nasal drip. GERD can present with heartburn, indigestion, belching, bloating, and stomach discomfort.

So what can we do to enjoy the holiday parties, large meals and festive activities with food and drink galore without sending our symptoms into overdrive? Dr. Craig Zalvan, Chief of Otolaryngology and Medical Director of The Institute for Voice and Swallowing Disorders, Phelps Hospital, offers some tips and recommendations to participate in the festive fun without suffering extra afterwards.

  • Eat less – eat smaller portions, and fill up your plate with vegetables and grains rather than turkey and meat.
  • Bring a dish that you know – if you are following a specific diet, such as Mediterranean or plant-based, offer to bring a dish that you make yourself or pick-up. This way you know that you’ll have something that you know exactly what’s in it.
  • Stay upright after eating – do not eat and then lie down or lounge horizontally on the couch. Wait at least 3-4 hours before laying down. This also means don’t eat within 3-4 hours of bedtime.
  • Plan your meal sizes and times of day – eat a larger meal earlier in the day and eat a smaller amount later on.
  • Minimize triggering drinks – limit your alcohol and soda intake, as these are known to trigger and exacerbate symptoms. Again, it may be a good idea to bring your own beverage option to ensure you have it as a go-to.

It is important to decrease the triggers, as outlined above, to minimize symptoms and the effect they can have on your holiday plans. If you are suffering from symptoms of LPR or GERD, Phelps’ experts are here to help. Visit https://phelps.northwell.edu/gastroenterology/reflux-center-of-westchester to learn more about the multidisciplinary team approach and request an appointment. Call the Reflux Center of Westchester today at (833) XREFLUX (833-973-3589) to speak to our concierge and schedule an appointment.