The holidays can be such a hectic time of year and probably the last thing on your mind is your health. But this time of year can actually have an effect on certain health conditions and even worsen them. Case in point is gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, and fittingly GERD awareness week is the week of Thanksgiving.

GERD is caused by stomach acid rising from the stomach into the esophagus causing a burning type of pain in the chest from irritation to the lining of the esophagus. Often GERD is self treated by reaching for some TUMS and not much thought goes into what is causing or making the reflux worse.

During the holidays we eat too much, eat late, cook and bake richer recipes, are stressed, drink more alcohol and maybe even smoke a little more. All of these things can worsen side effects from gastroesophageal reflux disease. Side effects of GERD may include burning or chest pain, cough, difficulty swallowing and hoarseness. If you already have GERD you may find that your symptoms are not as well controlled during this time of year.

GERD is easily treated over the counter these days whether it is TUMS for immediate relief or the use of a daily medication to help control acid production called a PPI, proton pump inhibitor. While taking medications will treat your symptoms, you should also try and avoid triggers and things that can worsen symptoms. Avoid eating large meals and eating very late. You should stay upright following a meal while your food digests so those holiday naps will have to wait. Limit your alcohol intake and don't smoke.

While self treating is OK it is important to know when to talk with a doctor. You should make an appointment with your gastroenterologist if you have reflux symptoms more than once a week and if your symptoms are not well controlled on over the counter medications. Your doctor might recommend different medications or further testing.

Don’t let another holiday season go by suffering with GERD symptoms. Talk with one of the doctors at Asheville Gastro about your concerns today.