Heartburn is caused by stomach acid rising up through the oesophagus, and touching its unprotected lining, according to GP Sarah Jarvis.
The condition can cause a burning pain behind the ribcage, an unpleasant taste or bitter fluid at the back of the throat, and a persistent cough.
Bad breath and chest pain are also signs of heartburn.
But, avoiding certain foods could reduce the risk of developing the unwanted condition, Jarvis said.
“I see more patients with heartburn at Christmas than at any other time of year,” she said.
“All the key culprits are there – red wine, cheese, oranges, peppermint and nuts.
“Overeating at the Christmas table is the rule rather than the exception, and when we stagger out of the dining room, it’s often only as far as the sofa where we lie back and reach for the chocolates.
“Whilst it’s hard to avoid the temptation of seasonal treats, it’s worth trying to eat a balanced diet over the Christmas period. Keeping a food diary before Christmas can also help as it lets enables you to identify food triggers so that you can avoid them.”
Christmas coffees and peppermint could be triggering heartburn symptoms, Jarvis said.
In some people, coffee relaxes the valve between the stomach and the bottom of the stomach to relax. This makes it easier for acid to reflux back into the gullet.
The gullet’s lining isn’t designed to withstand acid in the same way as the stomach lining, so it becomes irritated and inflamed, she said.
“Drinking makes heartburn so much worse,” explains Dr Jarvis, “Alcohol can irritate your stomach by increasing the amount of acid it produces.
“It can also make it easier for this acid to reflux back into the gullet, causing irritation.”
Heartburn treatments are designed to give temporary relief from symptoms, but don’t tend to tackle acid production, the GP claimed.
Antacids – a traditional heartburn medication – neutralise the acids to reduce pain, while alginates prevent acid from flowing back into the oesophagus.
But, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) block acid production in the stomach.
“Typically, patients will find that PPIs are effective as a first line treatment,” said Jarvis.
“They also have the added benefit that just one tablet a day can provide up to 24-hour protection from frequent heartburn.”