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GERD & Foods To Avoid During the Holidays

For the past 6 years, I have been living with GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease). I have a food list for every day meals, holidays, and special occasions. These lists include foods I can eat and foods I need to avoid. But with Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's so close together, it can be difficult to find foods that you can eat.

Since many people with GERD face the same problems, I have compiled a list of foods to avoid during the holidays and a list of foods that should be safe. (Since GERD trigger foods differ from person to person, use caution when choosing from these lists.)

Foods to Avoid

  • Onions can be the #1 trigger foods. Cooked onions are usually okay, but onions in their raw form are not so okay. Substances in raw onions cause GERD flare ups, but cooked onions breaks down the heartburn-inducing substances.
  • Milk chocolate, especially in large quantities, can cause heartburn and indigestion. I personally can eat a small amount with no problem. If you get indigestion from eating chocolate, avoid this and opt for an alternative, like dark chocolate.
  • Alcohol is not on everyone's list of things to avoid, but it can trigger GERD in some people. If you are unsure how alcohol will affect you, steer clear of it (so you don't have to learn the hard way). Caffeine is also another major trigger.
  • Avoid anything overly spicy, spiced, or hot. The acid from the food can irritate the esophagus, making your symptoms worse. This includes overly-salty foods, which is not only bad for GERD but bad for your blood pressure as well.
  • Creamy and overly-fattening foods can and may trigger heartburn or indigestion. If you can't avoid them, only eat a small portion.

Foods That Are Okay

  • Try to choose salads with light or low-fat dressings. Tomatoes should be okay, unless they're on your "avoid it" list. If a healthier dressing isn't available, forego the dressing.
  • Baked treats, in moderation, should be okay as long as they are not laden with butter. If you're the one baking, try to find an alternative to butter and/or sugar without turning the cookies into muffins. Picklee has a wonderful healthy baking substitution list.
  • Light turkey meat is a better alternative than dark turkey.
  • Healthy appetizers are a great way to snack, as long as they don't include your trigger foods.
  • Spreads and dips are another great way to snack. For those going to a party and you know a "safe" spread or dip isn't going to be available, offer to bring your own.
  • Just because it's the holidays does not mean you can stop eating what you eat every day! Be sure that those foods stay as a major part of your meals and include holiday eats every now and then.
  • Decaffeinated coffee and tea will not only warm you up, but keep you going all day long without the caffeine crash and indigestion. (I know, I know. Caffeine is the elixir to life, but it also the villain for GERD.) 
  • Peppermints (and minty things) are great for heartburn and indigestion so grab a candy cane and munch away. 
Want some tips to avoid heartburn and indigestion.

  • Don't overeat. Overeating can cause indigestion and heartburn like you wouldn't believe! You know when you overeat and you feel nauseous? Well, add heartburn to that. It's not fun!
  • Don't lie down right after eating. There is nothing worse than eating, lying down (even for a nap), and waking up with a heartburn from hell. If you need to lie down, wait at least an hour and make sure you're lying down with your head elevated r to 8 inches.
  •  Keep a remedy on hand. You can't always avoid your trigger foods, and when a heartburn happens, be sure you have some sort of remedy close by. I prefer the generic Maalox or Pepto-Bismal when I'm home. When I'm out, I take Prilosec OTC at least an hour before I plan on eating. 
  • Try to take a walk after eating. Now, I know you can't always take a walk after eating, especially when the nights get colder and snowier. But when the days are still nice, try to take a while for about 30 minutes after eating. It aids in digestion and you may avoid the dreaded heartburn. 
I know it's not an extensive list. Even after 6 years, I am still finding foods to add to my lists (like how I recently found out that wasabi goes straight to the "avoid it" list). And I don't care if I can't have it, I am looking forward to the delicious holiday treats I know I was be snacking on while I wrap gifts or decorate the tree!

How does having GERD keep you from enjoying the holidays?

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