The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are a time to celebrate with family and friends. It also tends to be the time of year to wreck havoc on your GI tract. People eat things they shouldn't and in large quantities. Sitting around in agony after the meal is almost as much tradition as the meal itself. Luckily, there are many OTC options to make the post-meal groans a little quieter.

Overeating. For many people, overeating is the number one post-feat complaint. One of the most effective treatments is Alka Seltzer. Since Alka Seltzer contains aspirin, it should be avoided by children (due to risk of Reyes syndrome), pregnant women, and others who are supposed to avoid aspirin. Luckily, Bayer makes an aspirin-free version called Alka Seltzer Gold. This can be harder to find so make sure you have some on hand ahead of time.

Heartburn. Heartburn tends to come in a close second for holiday unhappiness. Probably the easiest fx is to avoid foods that trigger it to begin with (spicy foods, acidic foods, caffeine, alcohol, and overeating). Since most of us can't help ourselves around so much delicious food, there are other strategies. The most effective is the H2 blockers such as ranitidine (Zantac), famotidine (Pepcid), or cimetidine (Tagamet). All these can be taken shortly before the meal and it should suppress your stomach acid for the evening. Cimetidine (Tagamet) should always be screened against any other drugs you're taking by a pharmacist due to its many drug interactions. If you want to take a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) such as Prilosec OTC or Prevacid 24HR, you need to start taking it daily a few days before the holidays. PPIs take a few days to reach their full effectiveness. Once you have heartburn or you can't wait for your H2 Blocker to start working, you can take one of the 'chalky antacids' such as Tums, Rolaids, Maalox, or Mylanta. These work great for immediate relief but tend to wear off faster. Pepto Bismol also works great but should be avoided by anyone who should avoid aspirin (since it has a similar drug in it).

Diarrhea. For diarrhea, there's a different strategy. Diarrhea is the body's way of flushing out something that isn't agreeing with GI tract, so usually the first episode shouldn't be prevented. Drinking pedialyte can help keep you hydrated and your electrolytes in balance. If you have repeat episodes, you can consider treating it. Imodium AD is the most effective anti-diarrheal over-the-counter. Since it is very effective, be careful not to 'overshoot'. The last thing you want to have to deal with is constipation later. Pepto Bismol works for milder diarrhea, but since it has a aspirin derivitive in it, it is not for children, pregnant women, or for those who can't take aspirin.

All of these medications are only effective if you have them available when you need them. Most stores close to observe the holidays, so make sure you pick them up before you need them. Don't work forget to bring them with you if you're going to someone else's home.