With the arrival of the holiday season, St. Luke’s gastroenterologist Caitlyn Foley, MD, is stressing the importance of drinking and eating in moderation, especially when it comes to rich, acidic or spicy foods.
Dr. Foley of St. Luke’s Gastroenterology treats all the organs of the digestive system–the esophagus, stomach, intestines and biliary organs, including the liver, bile ducts, pancreas and gallbladder.
“It’s definitely hard over the holidays with all of the rich foods and events that center around eating,” said Dr. Foley, who sees patients at St. Luke’s Gastroenterology in Bethlehem, Palmerton and Jim Thorpe. “Part of why I’m a gastroenterologist is my love of food. I love to eat, so I understand that it’s hard to stick to a strong diet over the holidays. But by avoiding the GI problems that come with overeating, you can have a more enjoyable holiday season.”
When you’re at a social event, listen to your body for signals that you’re full, she advises. Also, try not to eat heavy, rich foods late in the day, close to bedtime. If you lie down with a full stomach, you’re more likely to have issues with heartburn and acid reflux. Eating your biggest meal earlier in the afternoon allows more time for digestion and to follow your meal with some moderate physical activity, such as going for a walk.
Following a big meal, people suffering the effects of overeating can experience extreme stomach or chest pain that mimics symptoms of a heart attack. Knowing whether it’s heartburn or a heart attack can be difficult. Symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux are burning that starts in the stomach and goes up into the chest, and liquid backflowing into the mouth. Foods that trigger these symptoms are fatty, greasy, fried, acidic or spicy. Chocolate, caffeine and alcohol are also triggers.
“If someone has severe pain in their stomach and chest, it could be heartburn if after some time or moderate exercise, the pain lessens,” said Dr. Foley. However, if symptoms worsen or other concerning symptoms co-exist, she advises going to the emergency room.
Dr. Foley often sees patients in the office after they’ve gone to the ER when they thought they were having a heart attack, only to learn it was a bad case of heartburn.
“They feel stupid for having gone,” she said. “But it’s one of the times when you can be happy that you made a mistake.
“Someone medicating their heart attack with antacids…could harm their heart and even be deadly,” she added. “It’s definitely worthwhile to get things checked out. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Foley in Bethlehem, Palmerton or Jim Thorpe, call 484-526-6545.
Note: This local health news is brought to you in partnership with St. Luke’s University Health Network.