Life with gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is no picnic at any time of year, but it can be especially challenging during the holiday season.
Uncomfortable symptoms like heartburn, chest pain, and regurgitation can be brought on by a number of foods, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Unfortunately, some of the most common triggers are present in large quantities in traditional sweet holiday favorites.
“GERD trigger foods vary from person to person, but there are certain foods that tend to be more common triggers,” says Everyday Health’s dietitian, Kelly Kennedy, RDN. “When it comes to holiday desserts, some of the common triggers include large quantities of fat, peppermint, chocolate, and citrus.”
Specific desserts you’ll likely want to avoid include cream-based treats, piecrusts, icings, and desserts with chocolate, alcohol, and mint, says Gillian Culbertson, RD, a registered dietitian with Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Human Nutrition. “Think no cheesecake, chocolate cake, mint ice cream, and so on,” she says.
But fear not! GERD is quite common — the American College of Gastroenterologists estimates that about 20 percent of the U.S. population has the condition — and there are plenty of ways you can enjoy holiday sweets without upsetting your stomach.
“While it can be hard to think about forgoing chocolate and peppermint during the holiday season, there are a number of traditional holiday flavors that can fit in perfectly with a GERD-friendly diet,” Kennedy says. “These include ingredients such as nuts, apples, bananas, and oats. Look for foods that aren’t personal triggers for you and enjoy them in small amounts.”
That last point is especially important, as any large, heavy meal can also trigger GERD symptoms, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
“Also avoid coffee and alcohol, as they increase gastric acid and can lead to reflux,” Culbertson advises. “And of course avoid eating to overfull, wear loose clothing, and stay upright for at least two hours after eating — no post-meal naps!”
If you want to satisfy your sweet tooth this holiday season and still keep GERD symptoms at bay, try these five GERD-friendly dessert recipes.