Once the turkey has been carved and the pumpkin pie consumed, many Americans continue with the holiday diet and the typical dietary indiscretions throughout the season. In fact, holiday meals are often a minefield of acid triggering foods. Added to the stressors of the season, reflux symptoms can worsen. One of my mentors from residency training often called the time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s “Reflux Season.”
It is common to see an increase in patients during the holidays who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition where the acid and partially digested food from the stomach make their way back into the esophagus. The telltale signs of GERD include a distinct discomfort in the belly after a meal and heartburn that can be severe enough to mimic the pain of a heart attack. An antacid may be a quick fix, but any untreated reflux increases the risk of complications.
While an estimated 20 percent of Americans suffer from GERD, there is another reflux disease that plagues millions, often without their knowledge. Laryngopharyngeal reflux disease (LPRD) is a more ‘silent’ condition where acid travels up to the ears, nose and throat. It often does not present with the classic heartburn symptoms, but rather includes hoarseness, chronic cough, frequent throat clearing, throat pain or ear discomfort, a sensation of a lump in the throat, a bitter taste in the mouth, asthma exacerbations and/or postnasal drip. Symptoms are often worse in the morning due to night time reflux episodes.
Because LPRD occurs primarily during the day when an individual is in an upright position, many mistakenly attribute their symptoms to allergies or chronic sinus issues. While the exact cause of LPR is unknown, symptoms are associated with certain food and beverage intake, late night eating and obesity. Patients should leave spicy, citrus, fatty and chocolaty items off their plates and avoid alcoholic, caffeinated and carbonated beverages. Tobacco has also been linked to worse reflux symptoms and should be avoided.
If you or a loved one experiences any of the above symptoms on a regular or recurring bases, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician or an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat physician) for proper diagnosis and treatment. Fortunately, many people with GERD and/or LPR respond favorably to a combination of lifestyle changes and medication. If left untreated, heartburn can lead to Barrett’s esophagus, which is a precursor to cancer.
From accurate diagnosis to the development of a personalized treatment plan, Portneuf Ear Nose and Throat is here for you. I provide advanced treatment protocols, state-of-the-art diagnostic technology with comprehensive and compassionate care for patients of all ages. If you need to see an ENT physician, I am happy to be of service. To schedule a consult, call 208-239-1960. May your holidays be happy and healthy.