Christmas health problems: heartburn, weight gain & more

02 December 2014

From hangovers to heartburn find out which health problems you're likely to face this festive season and how to deal with them.


With fatty foods, alcohol and big meals being three common triggers of heartburn, it’s easy to see why Christmas festivities might bring on that unpleasant burning sensation in your chest and the acid taste at the back of your throat.

Heartburn affects around one in five people over 50 is commonly a result of a weakening of the oesophageal muscle, the one that sits between your stomach and oesophagus. If your stomach is full, or if you bend over after having eaten a lot, you might find yourself suffering with it.  

Read our guide to dealing with heartburn


Christmas is a time of indulgence and with free-flowing mulled wine and hot toddies, not to mention egg nog and beer, it’s no wonder that hangovers are a main feature of the holiday season. Add to that the fact that many of us drink types of alcohol we’re not used to and so it’s difficult to judge whether you’re drinking too much or not.  

Read our guide to coping with a hangover


According to research from the University of East London, UK, Christmas shopping increased blood pressure levels to dangerous levels in half of shoppers.

Add to that the stress of getting all the family together, meeting expectations (and special meal requirements) and so on and you can see why Christmas is rated as one of the most stressful times of year.

Read our guide to how to defuse Christmas tension

Weight gain

Recent research has revealed that Christmas itself won’t cause you to pile on pounds but over the longer festive season, ie through December and beyond into January, it’s common to add several pounds to your waistline.

With colder weather you’re more inclined to choose high-sugar high-fat foods and then there are also more opportunities for treating yourself with sweet or fatty foods, too. The result? A higher figure on those scales come January.

How to fight Christmas weight gain

Food poisoning

Don’t wash the turkey! It seems like a sensible thing to do but washing poultry without splashing in other parts of the sink and kitchen is very difficult. Your sponge, your dish rack and so on could get contaminated and as a result you could spend Christmas on the loo or in bed.

Other common sources include snacks or hors d’oeuvre that have been left out in warm temperatures for too long or are contaminated with some kind of bacteria from other people. 

Read our guide to food poisoning symptoms


All year long you eat fibre-rich healthy foods, making sure you get plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. You also make sure you get regular exercise. Then, all of a sudden you goblle up high-fat high-calorie foods, sit in an armchair watching TV all afternoon, and expect your body to cope with it as usual. Which is why rather than feeling like a special treat, a Christmas dinner can leave you wishing for a looser pair of trousers and a way to politely release all that painful gas.   

Read our guide to treating a bloated stomach


Around 450,000 people over 65 will spend Christmas alone each year and many of them will suffer with loneliness as a result. The symptoms will be similar to depression – feelings of sadness, lack of motivation, self-loathing – this type of loneliness is temporary.

At Christmas, when we are told and feel that we should be around those who love us, receive presents, and be merry and full of good cheer, it’s hardly surprising that reality rarely lives up to expectations.

With members of the family living far away, friends and partners who may have passed away, and colder weather making socialising more difficult, Christmas can be a time of greater loneliness than any other.

Read our guide to beating loneliness at Christmas


How often have you cooked a turkey this year? Probably not at all. So it’s hardly surprising that people often suffer with cooking burns at Christmas.

Handling heavy hot roasting tins without proper protective oven gloves, hurrying to make sure everything is ready at the same time or straying from the kitchen while things are on the boil, and even enjoying a glass of wine while cooking all add up to making Christmas dinner a risky business.

Electric shock

According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, around 350 people are hurt as a result of fairy lights each year. While some of those accidents including falling off a chair while reaching up the tree as well as children hurting themselves with the bulbs, many are down to electric shock or burns from faulty wiring.

Financial problems

If only Christmas day was after the January sales we would all be able to afford bigger and better presents for friends and family but unfortunately shop managers know we’re up against a deadline for last-minute gifts and so only dramatically reduce their prices after we’ve already spent our money.

According to the Learndirect agency, which helps people learn basic maths skills so they can budget in the future, one in three of us will go beyond our budget and one in four have no budget at all. No wonder then that many people don’t even make it to the January sales... the money’s already spent.

Seven signs you need to get on top of your finances

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.