Heartburn and Acid Reflux

Does Stress Cause Acid Reflux?

Let’s start out with a few acid reflux statistics.

According to a study, 44% of Americans have bouts of heartburn once a month. Another 14% suffer this weekly and 7% have daily occurrences. GERD (Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease) is reported as one of the most common complaints received by doctors.

There is no evidence that stress actually causes the disorder, but investigators have long believed that stress is a major factor in worsening the symptoms of GERD. This is supported by a Gallup poll done that found 64% of people with heartburn reporting a worsening of their symptoms when subjected to stress.

Investigators have even electronically monitored acid production and concentration in GERD patients. What they found was startling and revealed something that we all need to know. These patients registered no increase in acid concentration during periods of induced stress. BUT they did find out that when patients suffering from symptoms of GERD underwent relaxation, their symptoms decreased.

So apparently, stress can cause one’s discomfort to increase without actually increasing the acidic concentration in the esophagus. Relaxation, however, did positively affect the study participants in the area of their symptomatic intensity.

While stress has not been proven to cause GERD, it can physically affect how the patient feels. There seems to be a psychological factor in there somewhere. The fact is that regardless of this information, we all need to avoid stress, so here are a few tips to help you reduce stress.

  • Take a walk. Get away from the stress-inducing situation.
  • Exercise regularly. Start a regimen of physical exercise and do it daily.
  • Get enough sleep. The average person requires 7 to 8 hours a night.
  • Watch the food you take in. A balanced diet is a large factor in controlling GERD symptoms.
  • Limit your caffeine, salt, tobacco and sugar. These things heighten stress levels internally.
  • Take a “mental break”. Sit back, close your eyes and go to a happy place. Imagine yourself in some activity that you enjoy.
  • Some folks have taken to meditation for stress relief. Studies have shown that people who meditate actually have lower levels of stress.
  • Use a “white sounds” recording. Listening to the sounds of the ocean or rain falling on a tin roof can be soothing.

So while stress can and will affect how you feel, it can also heighten the symptoms of acid reflux disease. As I have said earlier, there is absolutely no evidence that stress can cause acid reflux disease but it does tend to increase the intensity of the symptoms.

Stress relief is the key and should provide you with a good base to handle any situation that comes up. Conversely, relaxation has been shown to positively counteract the effects of acid reflux disease. When you start to feel a little under the weather, try the relaxation suggestions above or find your own new ways to relax and just chill out.

Whatever works for you is good.

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