Heartburn: The 5 Worst Culprits

When we think about the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas many things come to mind: shopping, family, stress, parties. Whatever you have planned this holiday season there will more than likely be a bit of overindulgence involved and with the extra cookies and cocktails can come a serious case of indigestion. Here are some of the worst offenders when it comes to upset stomachs


Processed Meats
Processed meats like deli slices, sausage and hotdogs are often high is saturated fat as well as nitrates and sodium. High consumption of processed meats has long been associated with an increased risk of prostate, breast, colon and pancreatic cancer. While scientists are not exactly sure why this correlation exists it is theorized that the high levels of sodium nitrates these meats contain act as carcinogens when they enter the blood stream. It is also theorized that since fat tissues can concentrate whatever toxins or pollutants an animal consumes that a high saturated fat content, like that found in processed meat, exposes a person to higher levels of toxins. Foods high in fat tend to overwhelm the digestive system which can result in heartburn and acid reflux.


Spicy Food
Anything with a lot of heat can irritate the stomach lining and cause a nasty case of indigestion. Chili peppers in particular can affect the ability of the muscles at the bottom of the esophagus to get acids in the stomach from rising back into the esophagus so keep the hot food to a minimum if you are a frequent sufferer of heartburn.


While it may be the season for hot chocolate and eggnog lattes, its best to consume dairy products in moderation. An overabundance of milk and cheese can lead to gas, diarrhea, bloating and cramps so try to swap out a few servings of dairy with a milk substitute like soy or rice milk or stick with aged cheese like Swiss and cheddar which contain less lactose.


Alcohol is a major culprit behind holiday indigestion. Cocktails at the office holiday party can add up quickly and not only do they make you feel relaxed they also relax the muscles that prevent acid reflux. Alcohol also can inflame the lining of the stomach and prevent the absorption of certain nutrients so it best to always drink in moderation regardless of the event or holiday.


Caffeinated Beverages
Too many caffeinated beverages can lead to a host of digestive problems. Their diuretic properties can cause cramping and diarrhea and they relax the esophageal sphincter, the muscle responsible for keeping acid confined to the stomach. Carbonated drinks like soda are particularly bad as they can also lead to uncomfortable gas and bloating and the caffeine itself can lead to stress which in turn contributes to heart burn and indigestion.


While it may take a little discipline, it is possible to keep your digestive track on track this holiday season. Be sure to load up on healthy foods like fiber, whole grains and live-culture yogurt and take it easy on foods high in fat, dairy or caffeine and you will be on your way to a heartburn free New Year.

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