Healthier Holidays

Health Update - Healthier Holidays

It’s that time of the year again! Company of loved ones, music, exciting gifts and above all, wonderful food! While we all are allowed to indulge in savoring these gustatory treats, some of us with chronic medical issues should also exercise caution. This is especially true in individuals with history of acid reflux, high blood pressure and heart disease, liver disease and diabetes.

Acid Reflux

Acid Reflux is a common digestive issue. It typically occurs as a result of malfunctioning of a sphincter muscle at the junction of food pipe and stomach. At times when this muscle becomes lax, gastric contents (typically acidic) can regurgitate into the food pipe, thus causing heartburn. Some dietary and lifestyle changes that may minimize occurrence of acid reflux include:

  1. Eating small and frequent meals instead of larger meals.
  2. Limit or avoid alcohol and tobacco.
  3. Avoid excessive caffeine and carbonated beverages.
  4. Avoid lying down for two or three hours after a meal.
  5. Wear loose fitting clothes.

In case of intermittent heartburn, over the counter antacids or acid reducing medications like Zantac can be beneficial. In case of persistent heartburn, consult your primary physician or see a digestive disease specialist.

High Blood Pressure and Heart Disease

Patients with high blood pressure and heart disease should be cautious about the amount of salt in their meals. Increased salt in the diet can lead to elevated blood pressure. High blood pressure can increase your risk of heart disease and may make symptoms worse in patients with pre-existing heart disease. How to watch salt intake can be challenging. A few tricks include:

  1. Avoid high salt foods items like pickles and chips
  2. When consuming canned or packaged products, avoid items that have more than 250mg of sodium per serving
  3. In patients with known pre-existing heart failure, watch your weight every week and be cautious if weight increases by more than 2 pounds per week.

Liver Disease

Patients with known liver disease, such as cirrhosis or hepatitis, must also watch the amount of salt in their diet. Excessive salt in a diet can lead to swelling of the legs or fluid accumulation in the abdomen. Strategies to watch the amount of salt in the diet is similar to the ones mentioned above.


Diabetic patients should watch for amount of carbohydrate intake.

  1. Avoid excessive sweet beverages
  2. Avoid high sugar content desserts like cake, candy and cookies
  3. Watch for carbohydrates in white starches (bread, pasta, noodles, rice, pizza crust)
  4. Increase protein content e.g. eggs, lean meat (turkey, chicken, fish) and beans
  5. “Color your plate” – 1/4 starch, 1/4 proteins and 1/2 colored greens (fruits and vegetables)
  6. If using packaged food, watch for total carbohydrate amount, recommended amount being 30-45g/meal for women and 45-60g/meal for men
  7. Among cheeses, goat cheese and mozzarella are preferable

Food is an essential part of our lives. During this holiday season, I hope you have a great time dining with your loved ones. I hope some of the tips in this article will help you strike a good balance in the choice of your food items.