Baylor College of Medicine

Man standing holding his chest in pain

Avoid reflux after meals this holiday season

Molly Chiu


Houston, TX -

Getting reflux after a meal can leave a bad taste in the mouth, so don’t let it ruin your meals this holiday season. A Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital gastroenterologist provides tips for the whole family on how to manage reflux symptoms and which foods to avoid.

“Everyone experiences some degree of reflux throughout the day, which typically goes unnoticed,” said Dr. Eric Chiou, assistant professor of pediatrics – gastroenterology at Baylor and pediatric gastroenterologist at Texas Children’s Hospital. “But some people have reflux that causes complications like inflammation of the esophagus or bothersome symptoms such as pain, heartburn or respiratory issues. We distinguish that as reflux disease.”

Reflux typically affects adults, but it can also impact children. It is especially common in infants because of their size, Chiou said, but it becomes less prevalent by the time children reach 12-18 months. In adolescence, the frequency of reflux begins to rise again until adulthood.

Symptoms usually begin about 30 to 60 minutes after eating, according to Chiou. If symptoms occur during the meal, they may be caused by something other than reflux, such as an issue with the swallowing process. In children who are too young to describe what they are feeling, it can be hard to determine if symptoms are related to reflux.

Chiou advises that children “might feel like something is coming back up or they may have a bad taste in their mouth. They also may complain of chest pain or feel like their throat is hot or burning.”

Certain foods may predispose a person to experience reflux:

  • Spicy foods
  • Citrus fruits
  • Tomatoes
  • Caffeine
  • Chocolate
  • Foods with a high fat content

Chiou recommends lifestyle changes as a first step to combat reflux. “Try to cut back on acidic foods, carbonated or caffeinated beverages and fatty foods that take longer to digest,” he said. “Instead of eating large meals, try to eat smaller meals with snacks in between. Avoid eating anything close to bedtime when you’ll be lying flat.”

If changes in diet and eating habits don’t alleviate symptoms, Chiou recommends talking to your physician about medications that could help. Antacids neutralize acid immediately and can help typical symptoms like heartburn or regurgitation. Acid blockers stop the production of acid and may be helpful for frequent episodes of reflux. 

“Antacids may not be helpful for atypical reflux symptoms like a sore throat or cough, so it’s important to speak with your doctor first,” Chiou said. “If you experience reflux more than a couple times a week or if it causes other issues like weight loss or vomiting, I recommend seeing a gastroenterologist.”

Large meals during the holiday season can be especially challenging for people who suffer from reflux or reflux disease. Chiou says that severe diet restrictions aren’t necessary, but it’s important to be aware of potential reflux triggers.

“I don’t think anything absolutely needs to be off limits, but eat in moderation,” Chiou said. “Instead of taking a large portion of something that might trigger symptoms, take a smaller portion. You can also prepare by taking antacids to minimize symptoms.”

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