Many experts claim stress is a common heartburn trigger, but stress may contribute to acid reflux in a different way than you think.
The Stress-Heartburn Connection
Heartburn and stress are related, but which condition causes the other? Many people with acid reflux admit they often feel stressed and anxious, but the pain and discomfort of reflux can be extremely stressful. Stomach upset, regurgitation, chest pain, coughing and throat burning can cause loss of appetite, irritability and insomnia resulting in an intricate cycle of physical and emotional turmoil. It’s not surprising researchers continue to study the complex relationship between reflux and anxiety.
Stress Leads to Unhealthy Behaviors
Your digestive health is inextricably connected with your emotions. You may notice acid reflux increases during a family crisis or a job transition. Some studies suggest tension in the workplace or low job satisfaction increases the risk for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a progressive disease that can lead to long-term digestive complications.
Other research claims tension does not escalate acid production or regurgitation. Rather, it reduces the pain threshold and makes the esophagus more sensitive to acid erosion. Stressful situations can also cause you to overeat, drink alcohol, smoke and eat unhealthy food, which can all contribute to reflux and heartburn.
Lifestyle Choices to Prevent Stress and Heartburn
Regardless of whether stress causes heartburn or heartburn causes stress, you can prevent both by:
- Eating a healthy, low-acid diet
- Exercising regularly
- Quitting smoking
- Limiting alcohol
- Eating smaller, frequent meals
- Taking time to relax, meditate or be still
- Getting a full eight hours of sleep each night
Make a GI Doctor Appointment
Call your gastroenterologist if you experience frequent heartburn in conjunction with stress. Your doctor can evaluate your symptoms and schedule an upper endoscopy if necessary. Prompt treatment will help you avoid further complications and improve your digestive health.