If you’re prone to heartburn, which one in five of us are, you’ll be all too familiar with the burning pain that’s caused by stomach acid rising from behind the breastbone up to throat. Large meals put more pressure on the stomach, which makes heartburn worse and festive food can exacerbate it, as fatty foods like sausages can cause excess acid.
Tactics To Ward It Off
– Think fluid. Drinking plenty of fluid keeps your bowels moving, so there is less pressure in your system.
– Allow time to digest. Don’t lie down straight after a meal but if you do, try lifting your head with pillows.
– Stick to regular meals. If you’re getting up later than usual, don’t skip meals as big gaps can slow digestion.
– Be alcohol aware. Try to have food with alcohol and alternate glasses of wine with water. Avoid more than 14 units a week – and not all at once!
– Quick fix. Over-the-counter meds like Gaviscon can help as can Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) such as omeprazole. Make sure you take PPIs on an empty stomach. They’re not good long term though, as they can cause other health issues.
The Golden Rule Of Good Digestion
Slow down! It’s easy to forget that digestion requires a lot of energy. Eating too fast is a shortcut to overeating and indigestion. So always sit down, take small bites, put cutlery down between mouthfuls, chew until each bite is broken down, and swallow completely before you take another bite.
Stop Indigestion In Its Tracks
The Main Offenders
Indigestion is the pain that can occur at the top of the stomach and below the breastbone, especially at night. It is either the result of eating too much – which stretches the stomach – or by having an empty stomach, so there’s too much acid with nothing to buffer it, causing a gnawing pain.
Tactics To Ward It Off
– Eat slowly and regularly. Late lunches can mean a long gap without food, leaving you hungry and more prone to eating fast. Remember, it takes 20 minutes to realise you’re full, so don’t rush into dessert.
– Set yourself limits. It’s tempting to pick at food like mince pies, chocolates and sweets but they’re full of calories. So just take a handful of say, four or five sweets, and agree it’s your lot before lunch.
– Choose sensibly. Limit pastry-based canapés and cheese, as fatty food stays in your stomach for longer; opt for something like vegetable sticks and salsa. Eat mindfully, noticing what you are eating. And set wine limits; either by glass, only drinking with a meal, or choosing spritzer.
– Quick fix. Have some sorbet! Cold water and ice help empty your stomach efficiently. Most over-the-counter heartburn remedies and anti-sickness and motion-sickness pills can help indigestion. But prevention is better than cure!
When To Worry It’s A Warning Sign
In rare cases, these symptoms can be a sign of more serious diseases such as ulcers, coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease and some cancers. If your symptoms don’t respond to lifestyle changes and treatment then see your GP.