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Is it too much Thanksgiving turkey or is it GERD?

Posted by on Nov 20, 2013 in Sutter Health Sacramento Sierra Region, Sutter Roseville Medical Center | 0 comments


Ronald Hsu, M.D.

Ronald Hsu, M.D.

After seconds or even thirds of turkey, stuffing mashed potatoes, gravy and pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving, your stomach may begin to make some strange noises.  But when are those noises something to worry about?  Gastroenterologist Ronald Hsu, medical director of Sutter Roseville Endoscopy Center, has some tips that may help explain the racket your belly is making.

“People may be surprised to learn that those gurgling noises coming from your abdomen don’t actually come from the stomach,” said Dr. Hsu. “They’re generated by the intestines when food particles, gas and other substances move from one end to the other.”

A gentle rumble is usually considered normal functioning. But overindulging during the holidays can cause additional discomfort.

“When you are overfull your stomach and intestines can have trouble digesting what you’ve eaten,” said Dr. Hsu.  “Although too much of any food can cause pain, diarrhea and loud noises, these symptoms may be exacerbated during the holidays because it’s a time when people often indulge in a lot of rich foods that they don’t eat at other times of the year.”

Overeating during the holidays can also lead to heartburn or trigger the more serious gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Heartburn is a feeling of burning, warmth, heat or pain that often starts in the upper abdomen just beneath the lower breastbone. This discomfort may spread in waves upward into the throat and may also cause a sour taste in the mouth. Heartburn with other symptoms, such as hoarseness, tightness in the throat, wheezing, asthma, or bad breath, among others, may be cause by a more serious problem, such as GERD.

“Both heartburn and GERD occur when the valve between the esophagus and stomach relaxes and acids and juices from the stomach flow back up in the esophagus,” said Dr. Hsu. “However, the pain from GERD can be so intense that patients often go to the emergency room convinced they are having a heart attack.”

Anyone who is self medicating with over-the-counter acid controlling drugs for a prolonged period should seek medical advice.  GERD can be diagnosed by a physician and may be treated with appropriate prescription medications.

Tips to Avoid Heartburn and GERD 

  • Quit smoking. Nicotine relaxes the valve between the esophagus and stomach.
  • Avoid common trigger foods like chocolate, onions, peppermint, caffeine, alcohol, fatty or spicy good and citrus and tomato products.
  • East smaller, more frequent meals.
  • Maintain a normal weight.
  • Some medications may cause heartburn. Check with your doctor.
  • Raise the head of your bed a full six to eight inches—extra pillows are not enough.

Posted by on Nov 20, 2013 in Sutter Health Sacramento Sierra Region, Sutter Roseville Medical Center | 0 comments