Harvard Women's Health Watch

Preventing the burn of heartburn

Follow these anti-reflux strategies to avoid a painful end to your holiday meal.

The holiday season is a time well known for gastronomic excesses. Yet there are repercussions from these overindulgences. Eating too many holiday foods can lead to uncomfortable aftereffects, especially if you head straight to the couch. "People eat a huge meal and then they often recline in front of the television afterward, and that's a good setup for gastroesophageal reflux," explains Dr. Lawrence S. Friedman, who is the Anton R. Fried, M.D., Chair of the Department of Medicine at Newton-Wellesley Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Gastroesophageal reflux is the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus, which leads to the burning pain in the middle of the chest known as heartburn. It occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter—a ring of muscle that normally prevents stomach acid from escaping upward—relaxes too much instead of maintaining a barrier between the stomach and esophagus.

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