Surviving Pumpkin Spice Season: A GERD-Friendly Guide to Fall

Surviving Pumpkin Spice Season: A GERD-Friendly Guide to Fall

Published on Monday, October 16, 2023 by Deanna Salles-Freeman

It’s Fall, Y’all: Navigating Pumpkin Spice and Heartburn Ice

Fall is here. 

Ah, the crisp breeze, the colorful foliage, and the scent of pumpkin spice wafting through the air - fall is here! But for those living with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), the season of cozy sweaters and apple picking can also bring about the season of heartburn.

Fear not, for we are about to embark on a lighthearted journey through GERD and the fall season, with a sprinkle of science to guide us.

Tour of the Fall Season

Pumpkin Spice Everything (Even GERD)

As soon as the leaves start to change, it's like the entire world suddenly becomes obsessed with pumpkin spice. From lattes to muffins to candles, there's no escape. While the aroma is heavenly, the GERD-inducing potential can be, well, fiery. Why?

Pumpkin spice often contains cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and possibly other spices. Allspice contains black pepper, which is a known trigger for acid reflux. While spices impact each person differently, it’s good to be aware. Additionally, the higher-fat milk in pumpkin spice lattes (unless specified otherwise) can trigger symptoms. So, enjoy it in moderation and maybe opt for a soothing herbal tea afterward.

I’m no Cinderella, but I know that pumpkins are magical.

Fall Feasting and GERD

Fall feasts are a culinary adventure. Roasted turkey, savory stuffing, and all the fixings delight the taste buds, but they can be quite challenging for GERD warriors. Large, heavy meals can pressure the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), making it easier for stomach acid to stage an uprising. To navigate this delicious minefield, try smaller, more frequent meals and resist the temptation to overindulge.

The Great Outdoors and GERD

Fall is the perfect time to head outdoors for hikes and leaf-peeping, but GERD can sometimes be the uninvited guest on your nature adventure. All that bending and stooping can encourage stomach acid to creep up the esophagus. To keep the fiery dragon at bay, maintain good posture and avoid bending immediately after eating.

Oktoberfest and GERD: Prost (Cautiously)!

If you're a fan of Oktoberfest, be prepared for a GERD-friendly twist on the traditional beer stein cheer. Alcohol, especially beer and wine, is known to increase acid reflux risk symptoms. The high carbonation combined with the typical high-fat festival foods can be a fiery combination. Lower fat choices like the pretzels vs. the sausage are a better option. While you can still raise a glass (in moderation), consider opting for a lighter beer or even a non-alcoholic brew to keep the reflux dragon in check.

Fall Stress and GERD

Back-to-school, holiday planning, and the impending winter can make fall a stressful season. Stress is a well-known GERD trigger as it can increase stomach acid production. So, embrace stress-reduction techniques like deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, or simply snuggling up with a good book and a warm blanket.

In our quest to enjoy the fall season without igniting heartburn, it's important to remember that GERD triggers can vary from person to person. What feels like fire-breathing dragons to one may be mere embers to another. Listen to your body, make GERD-friendly choices, and consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice.

Stay Cozy

So, there you have it, dear reader, a playful tour through GERD and the fall season. With a dash of awareness and a sprinkle of self-care, you can savor the flavors and embrace the delights of autumn while keeping heartburn at bay. May your pumpkin spice latte be light on the spice, your apple-picking adventure heartburn-free, and your fall season cozy and delightful.

I see you, and YOU are beautiful!

  1. Eherer, A. (2014). Management of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: Lifestyle Modification and Alternative Approaches. Digestive Diseases, 32(1-2), 149–151.
  2. Eherer, A. J., Netolitzky, F., Högenauer, C., Puschnig, G., Hinterleitner, T. A., Scheidl, S., Kraxner, W., Krejs, G. J., & Hoffmann, K. M. (2012). Positive effect of abdominal breathing exercise on gastroesophageal reflux disease: a randomized, controlled study. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 107(3), 372–378.
  3. Zheng, Z., Nordenstedt, H., Pedersen, N. L., Lagergren, J., & Ye, W. (2007). Lifestyle Factors and Risk for Symptomatic Gastroesophageal Reflux in Monozygotic Twins. Gastroenterology, 132(1), 87–95. 

Leave a comment on this article: