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How to Enjoy Thanksgiving When You Have Acid Reflux

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Approximately 20% of people in the United States suffer from acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) -- which is a more serious form of reflux that happens more than a couple of times a week. You experience reflux when the contents of your stomach, including food, acid, and bile, move up into your esophagus and cause a burning sensation in your throat and chest as a result.

The trick to a reflux-free Thanksgiving is to avoid aggravating foods and habits that can cause you to regret your holiday celebration. You’re a lot better off preventing the discomfort associated with acid reflux than trying to treat it, especially when you’ve got a house full of family and guests.

Limit trigger foods

Fatty foods, onion, garlic, fried foods, caffeine, and tomatoes commonly cause reflux symptoms. Avoid spicy sausage stuffing, creamy sauces, and the crispy onions on top of green bean casserole. Limit the amount of gravy and butter you add to your plate.

Make your meal mostly consist of white-meat turkey, sweet potatoes or plain mashed potatoes, a roll, and plain veggies or leafy greens -- but avoid the vinegary salad dressings. Skip coffee with your dessert, and stick to a small piece of plain apple or pumpkin pie.

Skip the cranberry sauce

Cranberry sauce is acidic, and even more so if it has orange flavor added. Skip it or eat a very small portion to avoid a reflux episode.

Don’t stuff yourself

The primary reason reflux sufferers have problems on Thanksgiving is because they eat too much. Take smaller portions and eat slowly. Use a small plate and skip seconds – or thirds! Savor the leftovers for the next few days rather than piling everything on your plate at once on the actual holiday.

Keep alcohol intake to a minimum

Alcohol leads to reflux symptoms because it can relax your esophageal sphincter muscle, allowing acid to spill up into your esophagus and throat. Alcohol can also lower your inhibitions, so you end up overindulging.

Depending on your sensitivity to spirits, you can enjoy a glass of wine or one drink without too many side effects. Drink more and you may regret it.

Sip on water with meals to dilute stomach acid. Even bubbly drinks, such as seltzer and soda, can make people with reflux feel bloated and uncomfortable.

Use antacids if you need to

Take an antacid if you feel postmeal heartburn coming on. These over-the-counter medications control stomach acid and can minimize uncomfortable symptoms. And take it from us at Digestive Disorders Associates, that you don’t want to forget any prescription medications you take for acid reflux when you head out for Thanksgiving dinner.

Take a walk instead of a nap

If your meal made you sleepy, or you just find yourself falling asleep in front of the big game, resist the urge to nap. Lying down may be one of the worst things you can do, because a horizontal position aggravates reflux. Go for a walk instead to promote digestion, boost energy, and burn some of the calories from your meal.


If you find you have trouble managing reflux on your own, consult with the specialists in our office to learn other steps you can take to minimize your discomfort. Just call one of our offices in Annapolis, Maryland, or click the button to book an appointment online.

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