5 Tips for Acid Reflux Patients Around the Holidays

Because overindulgence is common during the holiday season, pharmacists may be asked for their advice on how to avoid and treat acid reflux.

Because overindulgence is common during the holiday season, pharmacists may be asked for their advice on how to avoid and treat acid reflux.

Three pharmacists from the St. Louis College of Pharmacy told Pharmacy Times how pharmacists can counsel patients who are looking to combat acid reflux when they gather round the table with friends and family.

Here are 5 tips pharmacists can share with patients with a history of acid reflux:

1. Eat slowly.

Golden Peters, PharmD, BCPS, told Pharmacy Times that many pharmacists simply want to end the talk about holiday time acid reflux after they offer a warning not to overindulge in food.

A better approach would be to discuss savoring the foods of the season and eating slowly, Dr. Peters said. This is especially true because bloating and acid reflux often result from foods being consumed too quickly.

2. Don’t forget to take your acid reflux medication.

Matthew Pitlick, PharmD, BCPS, commented that it is important to ask patients questions during counseling and remind them to adhere to prescribed medications.

Non-pharmacologic therapy, OTC medications, and referrals are all good options for recommendations.

3. Avoid trigger foods and trigger medications if possible.

Spicy foods and acidic drinks like orange or tomato juice should be avoided, as well as excessive amounts of chocolates and peppermint or mints.

Other trigger foods may include garlic, tomatoes, onions, fatty foods, and alcohol.

Instead, patients should stick to the main course and protein. Drinking plenty of water also helps, the pharmacists noted.

Dr. Matthew Pitlick also cited certain medications that may exacerbate the symptoms of acid reflux, such as calcium channel blockers, bisphosphonates, anticholinergics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and medications containing acetylsalicylic acid.

4. Look out for atypical symptoms of acid reflux.

Jamie Pitlick, PharmD, said patients may not realize that belching, chest pain, and even chronic cough can be atypical symptoms of acid reflux.

Therefore, pharmacists should remind patients that heartburn is not the only symptom of acid reflux.

5. Know what it takes to overcome your acid reflux.

As far as combating acid reflux after it has set in, allowing 2 to 3 hours for digestion before going to bed is a good idea. However, experts are conflicted about sleeping arrangements for patients with acid reflux.

Dr. Peters suggested that it might aid overnight symptoms of acid reflux, while Dr. Jamie Pitlick said it may worsen symptoms by putting additional pressure on the patient’s stomach.

Raising one’s head on the bed may be a better option for overnight symptoms, according to Dr. Jamie Pitlick.

Smoking cessation can also aid the reduction of acid reflux, according to the pharmacists.

“Products containing sodium bicarbonate, aluminum hydroxide, magnesium hydroxide, bismuth subsalicylate, and calcium carbonate work well for occasional acid reflux. They also work quickly,” Dr. Peters said. “Magnesium hydroxide is a good option to neutralize acid quickly; however, it can have a laxative effect and should be avoided in patients with kidney disease, while aluminum hydroxide can cause constipation.”

Dr. Jamie Pitlick noted that proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) do not have quick onsets and should not be used as needed. Instead, PPIs should be taken 15 to 30 minutes before breakfast or the biggest meal of the day.