The period just after you finish Christmas dinner is one of the best parts of the day. The morning hysteria of presents is over, the cooking is done, and everyone is contentedly full and ready for a little snooze on the sofa in order to gain the energy to argue with each other over board games and cheese later.
However, if you’re suffering from heartburn, this golden period will be far less joyous. And given that a lot of people will be suffering from heartburn during Christmas owing to the sizeable meals involved, it’s worth thinking now about the measures you can take to avoid it.
To help you out, Dr Carol Cooper has partnered with acid reflux medicine Nexium Control to provide these top tips for reducing your risk of suffering from heartburn.
1. Work Out The Foods That Cause Your heartburn, Then Swap Them Out
Fingers crossed it’s not pigs in blankets.
“Try to keep a food diary using an app,” says Cooper. “Even if this is something you’ve already tried, your trigger foods may have changed over time. Being able to identify problematic food will help you to find tasty alternatives.”
2. Don’t Eat Too Much
Do you really need a second portion of Christmas pud?
“Excessively large meals can delay gastric emptying and put internal pressure on the stomach, which may cause heartburn,” says Cooper.
3. Chew Properly
“Count to 20 between mouthfuls, which will help you chew properly,” says Cooper. “It’s easy to eat too quickly when you’re stressed or busy, but chewing and eating slowly will help reduce the likelihood of heartburn.”
4. Chill Out
Stress can trigger heartburn, and Christmas can be a stressful time, so take steps to ensure you relax where possible.
“Focus on your breathing,” says Cooper. “Take a few moments to stop and focus on deep breathing to reduce stress – there are a number of mindfulness apps you can try to help you with this.”
If you can seize control of the music and turn off Michael Bublé’s Christmas album for a moment, try one of the many relaxation playlists available on streaming services like Spotify.
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5. Sleep On Your Left Side
If heartburn is affecting your sleep, then try switching positions.
“You can try sleeping on your left side,” says Cooper. “This is the position that has been found to best reduce acid reflux. Try tucking a pillow behind your back to help you stay in position.”
When trying to get to sleep wearing loose clothing is another good idea, so consider switching to something more comfortable after your epic Christmas dinner.
“Wear comfy, loose-fitting pyjamas or a nightshirt as this will help relieve the pressure on your abdomen and lower oesophageal sphincter,” says Cooper.
6. Consider Changing Treatment If It’s A Common Occurrence
If heartburn is a regular problem for you, then it might be time for a different treatment than the traditional antacids most people turn to.
“Many people think about the severity of their heartburn but actually frequency is more important,” says Cooper. “If heartburn is disrupting your life twice a week or more, consider your use of treatment.
“Antacids work by neutralising stomach acid and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) [like Nexium Control] work by stopping excess acid production by the stomach in the first place so they give lasting protection. PPIs are recommended for first-line treatment for frequent heartburn sufferers. They can be taken if you get heartburn twice a week or more and they can be taken for up to 14 days.”
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.