Overindulgence over the holidays: tips for being medicinewise and staying healthy

Overeating and drinking alcohol can be hard to avoid during the festive season, and NPS is encouraging everyone to consider how what you do over the party season might affect your health and the medicines you're taking.

NPS clinical adviser Dr Danielle Stowasser has some tips to help people make the most of their holidays by staying healthy and taking medicines safely.

"Overindulging at Christmas time can leave many of us feeling uncomfortably full — but for some people it will cause more troublesome symptoms," says Dr Stowasser.

"Large meals, rich foods, eating too late, and drinking too much alcohol or caffeine can cause a burning sensation called 'reflux' or heartburn."

Before reaching for the medicine cabinet or heading to the pharmacy, try relieving or preventing the symptoms of heartburn or indigestion by:

  • steering clear of foods or drinks that make symptoms worse
  • limiting alcohol intake
  • reducing meal sizes, and 
  • eating well before bedtime or exercise.

You can also help reduce or prevent reflux by losing weight (if overweight or obese), stopping smoking and reducing stress levels.

"If these lifestyle approaches aren’t enough, a doctor or pharmacist may suggest a medicine such as an antacid, a histamine H2-receptor antagonist or a proton pump inhibitor," says Dr Stowasser.

Dr Stowasser also warns about medicines that don’t mix well with alcohol.

“Lots of types of medicines can be affected by alcohol, including medicines for high blood pressure, some pain relievers, and medicines for travel sickness.” says Dr Stowasser.

"Alcohol can also increase the drowsiness or dizziness caused by medicines like sleeping tablets, antidepressants or medicines for anxiety. This may make it harder for you to think clearly, affect your co-ordination and increase your chance of falling or having an accident while driving or operating machinery."

If you are unsure whether alcohol affects your medicine:

  • look for a red warning sticker on the packaging
  • read the consumer medicines information leaflet for the medicine, or 
  • ask your doctor or pharmacist.

For more information about being medicinewise, visit http://www.nps.org.au/bemedicinewise/medicinewise_choices 


Independent, evidence-based and not-for-profit, NPS enables better decisions about medicines and medical tests.We are funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.


Australian Prescriber is an independent peer-reviewed journal providing critical commentary on therapeutic topics for health professionals, particularly doctors in general practice. It is published by NPS, an independent, not-for-profit organisation for quality use of medicines funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. Australian Prescriber is published every two months, in hard copy that is distributed to health professionals free of charge, and online in full text at www.australianprescriber.com