Jan Gambino Jan Gambino's Blog

Thanksgiving and Reflux: How to Survive the Holiday and Enjoy it too!

Americans make a big deal out of celebrating Thanksgiving: from giant parades to giant meals, we seem to do things in a big way. We also seem to over-indulge and eat too much. The media has reported that even Americans who don’t have reflux report fullness, indigestion and other “reflux” symptoms after a big holiday meal.

For a child with reflux, Thanksgiving may be just another day to navigate the food choices and try to eat carefully to avoid pain and discomfort. On the other hand, a food oriented holiday like Thanksgiving may pose a special challenge.

Our children with reflux seldom show outward signs of their chronic medical condition. It may be difficult for friends and relatives to understand that a child with acid reflux has special dietary and digestive needs that make a big different in controlling symptoms.

My Top Tips for Surviving Thanksgiving

Eating Carefully:

Children with reflux may benefit from staying on a regular eating schedule, regardless of what time the turkey is coming out of the oven. If your child normally eats lunch at 11:15am, go ahead and give him some lunch. At 2pm when the holiday meal is served may be his usual snack time. So for today, he is having turkey and mashed potatoes for his snack! Perhaps he sat through the whole meal and barely ate a thing. Let him have a snack or other meal (out of sight of the cook to avoid hurt feelings!). I call this pre feeding and post feeding. Some may see it as catering or “waitress syndrome” but on a holiday, I think the big goal is to enjoy the day and have fun.

New Traditions:

Perhaps food and eating isn’t a big deal for your child. It might be a good idea to start a new tradition. Your child can recite a prayer or school essay to the guests about Thanksgiving or make a centerpiece for the table. I recommend www.familyfun.com for amazing and simple ideas for crafts you can do with your child.

Teachable Moment:

Thanksgiving is a good time to teach your child to use their manners. Saying, “No Thank You.” politely and gracefully when Aunt Susan is trying to fill your plate with her casserole is a great learning experience. It is also a good time to learn to refrain from having a full blown tantrum if a green bean or mushroom ends up on her plate. All children, and especially refluxers need to learn that saying, “That’s yucky!” and”Take that off my plate right now!” are not acceptable during meals.

Giving Thanks:

It might be easy to get caught up in the logistics of travel, baking and cooking and lose sight of the real meaning of Thanksgiving. If you are feeling stressed by the demands of caring for a child with reflux, you may be feeling even more pressure than everyone else. And your child may be less than grateful for the wonderful meal you have just prepared. Think about it: Is Thanksgiving all about spending hours in the kitchen or is it about being together with people you care about? Is it all about the food or all about giving thanks?

Dealing with the Comments:

Friends and relative may notice that your child with reflux has odd eating habits or seems to be a picky eater. You may have heard some comments, “She has to try it otherwise she won’t know if she likes it.” “Just give her what everyone else is eating and eventually she will eat it too.” “My kids ate everything.” You may feel your temperature rising and your ears burning from these comments because you know your child is trying so hard to eat and drink like a normal kid. You can certainly offer a bit of information about reflux but it might not be well understood or accepted. It might be better to share your worries and concerns with another parent of a child with reflux. Parents often use the PAGER Association Parent Forums at www.reflux.org to share their concerns and frustrations.

Building Memories:

Thanksgiving is not a day to be the Healthy Food Police and monitor the intake of soda and whipped cream. If the majority of Americans are over indulging on Thanksgiving, why should we think we can stop our children from doing the same thing?

Be sure to fill the memory bank with wonderful memories of Thanksgiving. It could be watching the football game every year or a marathon game of Monopoly.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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doctor first!