This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
The holiday season is the most gastronomically intense time of the year, resulting in many people experiencing heartburn after indulging in rich food and large portions. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), otherwise known as acid reflux, is a common affliction caused by a weakened valve that separates the stomach from the esophagus. When this structure becomes weak, it permits acid from the stomach to back up into the esophagus, producing heartburn and other symptoms.
The good news is that there are things you can do to make digestion much more comfortable and prevent the occurrence of these symptoms.
#1: Avoid Trigger Foods
Those who are prone to heartburn can benefit from staying away from certain substances known to trigger it. Greatly limit rich, fatty foods, such as gravies, fried foods and heavy casseroles because they prolong the process of digestion and remain in the stomach longer than other foods. Avoid high carbohydrate desserts such as cakes and cookies, and abstain from alcohol, carbonated beverages and citrus foods. Caffeine and chocolate can also trigger the condition, as they irritate the valve, causing it to function less effectively. Other culprits include tomato products and spicy foods, as well as mint, garlic and onions.
#2: Include Foods Beneficial for Digestion
Include foods that contain healthy fats, such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado and fish, which have omega-3 fatty acids, because they open the valve, permitting the stomach contents to empty. Include ginger in your recipes, as it is a good digestive aid.
#3: Employ Eating Habits Conducive to Good Digestion
Although overeating and overdrinking seem to be a holiday tradition, resist this impulse, consuming only moderate quantities. Eating too close to bedtime can cause reflux, so eat early enough to give your body three to four hours for digestion following your evening meal. Also, eat slowly, as consuming food too quickly can lead to heartburn. Forgo the after-meal nap in favor of a walk, or if you must lie down after a meal, keep your head elevated 6 to 8 inches.
#4: Practice Deep Breathing Exercises
One study found that those with a mild heartburn condition might experience relief from belly breathing exercises. This small investigation discovered that those who engaged in such exercises had less reflux and diminished need for medications. Much more research is needed, but if the proof is established, this practice would be a welcome tool for fighting reflux because there are no side effects associated with it. A scientist involved in the study postulated that the deep abdominal breathing alleviated reflux by strengthening the muscles that are close to the diaphragm, Reuters notes. This possible solution does not work immediately, but if such exercises are practiced regularly, they might be of value to heartburn sufferers.