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Surviving Thanksgiving with Acid Reflux

Posted Nov 03 2009 9:54am

Thanksgiving can be an acid reflux sufferer’s worst nightmare; a smorgasbord of rich, tempting food to choose from and the inevitable heartburn, GERD or LPR that goes with it. Don’t despair. If you have been diagnosed with one of the above diseases related to acid reflux, here are some tips and tricks to help you survive the Thanksgiving feast and even show you how to enjoy it.

Thanksgiving Feast
Photo by: Rabble on Flickr Creative Commons

Unfortunately, I know more than I’d like to know about acid reflux. After being diagnosed with an acute case of LPR (Laryngopharyngeal Reflux) over the summer, I had to completely re-learn how to eat, when to eat, what foods to avoid and discover what medications worked best for me. Based on my experience and research, I put together a brief Thanksgiving survival guide for acid reflux sufferers.

See your doctor and get medicated

This is a no-brainer. But unfortunately, many people don’t do this. If you have a bad case of acid reflux, over-the-counter medications may not cut it. In my case, I was told that even a double dose of OTC Prilosec would be like “a drop in a pool”.  The only thing that worked for me was a heavy duty prescription time-released capsule. If you are reading this article, you already know that you have acid reflux. But many people do not. Not all acid reflux patients experience the obvious heartburn. LPR or “Silent Reflux” affects the esophagus. Sufferers experience coughing, problems swallowing and in some cases restriction of their airway. Finding the right medication can help tremendously and may even allow you to eat like you normally –without stressing over food in the first place.

You may find that taking a dual action chewable PPI like Pepsid AC before and after your Thanksgiving  meal helps with acid reflux–regardless if you take prescription medications or not.

Eat early

Fortunately Thanksgiving is a meal that is often served as a late lunch. If you suffer from acid reflux, it is best to not to eat 3 hours before bedtime. So no late-night pumpkin pie for you. Make sure that you get plenty to eat before bedtime so you are not tempted to raid the fridge later.

Don’t stuff yourself

Take your acid reflux as a lesson in better eating habits. Over-eating is a big no-no in general, but it’s even worse for acid reflux sufferers. It is better to eat many small portions rather than gorging out in one sitting. Don’t feel bad about eating something before the “big meal” so that you do not eat too fast and overdo it at the table.

Food and beverages to avoid

It’s a shame, but most of the good things we eat and drink are acid reflux offenders.  During my acute phase of LPR, I had to avoid most anything with spice or flavor. I was also instructed to avoid major food groups including dairy, alcohol (bummer) and citrus. Hopefully, you don’t have it that bad. Here is a basic food chart to help you make wise choices during Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Cheat Sheet for Acid Reflux Sufferers
Avoid Like the PlagueEat in ModerationGo Nuts!
Alcohol (Red wine is the worst)
Caffeinated drinks
Cranberry sauce
Fried and fatty foods
Tomato products
Heavy spices
Carbonated beverages, such as soda
Citrus fruits and juices
Dairy products
~Cream sauces
Corn bread
Mashed potatoes (NO gravy)
Pumpkin Pie
Sugary dessert
Turkey and lean meat
Whole grains
Vegetables (non citrus)
Fruits (non citrus)
Egg whites

Put yourself in motion

One of the best things you can do for your delicate acid reflux condition is to get your digestive juices going and kick up your metabolism before and after the meal. But you don’t have to run a marathon. A 30-minute walk will do the trick. If you are hosting Thanksgiving, why not allow your guests to get competitive with an active video game match or a potato sack race? On second thought, maybe a walk around the block will do.


Have a question? Try the heartburn help forums

April Lentini writes for and

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