11 December 2012 Is Your Heartburn Getting Worse?

Tis the season to be merry! Along with the merriment and festivities, perhaps you are finding that you are experiencing more heartburn or reflux? This can happen when your typical eating pattern changes to include more parties, dining out, and alcohol.

Here is a hit list of diet and lifestyle factors that can make reflux worse during the holidays. This information was obtained from the Nutrition Care Manual of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.


  • Alcohol
  • Coffee (high caffeine content)
  • High fat meals
  • Black and red pepper
  • Chocolate
  • Mint


  • Wearing clothing with a tight-fitting waist while eating
  • Lying down within 3 hours of eating

Do you see anything that applies to you? Keeping a food record that includes notes about how you felt after the meal can help you see relationships between what you eat, drink, and the pain you experience. Tracking is also useful to determine how much total fat you can tolerate in a single meal or snack. Many people do not realize that controlling total fat content can have a huge impact on how well they control reflux or heartburn pain.

Daily Notes

If you use MyNetDiary, start using Daily Notes (Details tab on web or bottom of the main screen in mobile apps) to write about how you felt after a meal. Include the time in your notes. If you have a Max membership, then Daily Notes will be included in nutrition reports printed from the web program: Daily Report and Nutrition Summary. To print Daily Report, go into the Food tab and select the day of interest and then simply click the print button. Print the Nutrition Summary from the Reports tab.

Other Factors


You might find that other factors conspire with diet to make your reflux worse. For instance, not getting enough sleep can make you more prone to reflux pain. This might be due to consuming more caffeine to stay awake, taking more NSAIDs (e.g. aspirin or ibuprofen), and/or possibly more alcohol in the evening in an attempt to force sleep. You can track hours of sleep with MyNetDiary by including it as a measurement to track (Details tab on web or Measurements row in apps).

Eating Late

Parties that go late into the night can make reflux pain worse. Keep in mind that you should remain upright for at least 3 hours after a main meal before lying down to sleep to help curb reflux. Watch how much party food you eat – better to eat a balanced meal before the party and eat light at the party.


Did you know that cigarette smoking can make your reflux pain worse? Not only is smoking terrible for respiratory and cardiovascular health, but it appears that it is not good for gut health either. If you smoke, quitting will make a big difference in reducing reflux pain.

Please see your doctor if your pain does not go away with simple changes in diet and lifestyle. Also, sometimes heartburn is really a heart attack - if you suspect something is very wrong then don't delay – seek emergency medical care. But for more information on signs of heartburn vs. heart attack to read at your leisure, check out this article from Mayo Clinic.

Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD, CDE
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


Holidays / Parties/Winter Holiday Season Other Health Issues/Gastrointestinal (Gut)

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