Christmas is the season of cheese, chocolate, and a tipple or two in front of the tree. However, these treats for the tastebuds may spell trouble for your digestive health.
Heartburn, which regularly affects 25% of the population, has been shown in studies to be more prevalent over the winter months and the festive season. This is partly due to enjoying more indulgent diets and a reduction in physical activity, which is often exasperated by increased stress on the run-up to Christmas, a further trigger for heartburn.
It is caused by the valve at the bottom of the oesophagus letting stomach acid escape into the oesophagus, sometimes travelling upwards as far as the throat. Symptoms include a burning sensation in the chest, pain, bloating and an acidic taste in the throat – bound to put a dampener on your festive cheer.
Fortunately, simple lifestyle changes and over the counter medication are on hand to keep heartburn at bay this Christmas.
GP Sarah Jarvis comments: ‘Rich festive foods which are high in fat or sugar, as well as coffee and alcoholic drinks, are common triggers of heartburn. Try to identify foods which bring on your heartburn and eat accordingly, by substituting or reducing portion sizes of regular culprits.
‘It’s easy to get carried away around Christmas, be careful not to overindulge and take your time whilst eating. Avoid eating heavy meals late in the evening to allow your stomach time to digest before lying down. Not wearing tight clothes around your tummy will also help by reducing pressure on the stomach.
‘I, like most GPs, recommend proton pump inhibitors such as omeprazole because they provide effective relief over a whole 24-hour period. Because they reduce acid production, they can also reduce inflammation and scarring on the lining of your gullet.’
A new product, Pyrocalm Control containing omeprazole, the ingredient most prescribed by GPs, is now available over the counter and online, for 24-hour relief without the need to see a doctor.
Whereas other treatments mask the problem, Pyrocalm Control, containing omeprazole, blocks the release of acid at the source, decreasing the acidity inside the stomach and leaving only a small amount required for digestion.
The new treatment, Pyrocalm Control 20mg Gastro-Resistant Tablets (RRP£6.99 for 7 tablets, £10.99 for 14 tablets) is now available from pharmacies or from their website.