You do everything right to suppress your acid reflux. You avoid spicy foods and alcohol. You leave plenty of time between dinner and bedtime. You eat small meals, and you even quit smoking. Good for you – you’re doing a great job of managing your condition.
Flare-ups can still occur, however, due to circumstances beyond your control. Stressful events, whether a big presentation at work or a big move, can irritate your acid reflux. Research reports that people who feel stressed are more likely to experience more intense acid reflux symptoms or chronic GERD.
Dr. Bharat Pothuri of GastroDox in Cypress, Texas, wants you to know the following about the relationship between stress and acid reflux.
Symptoms may be more noticeable
It’s not been proven that a person who is stressed out produces more stomach acid or that more is directed to the esophagus to cause unpleasant symptoms such as heartburn and regurgitation. But when they’re under stress, people with acid reflux notice their symptoms more and say they feel more intense.
If you’re stressed, you may simply be more sensitive to your physical symptoms. Your acid reflux isn’t physiologically worse, but the negative effect it has on your well-being is magnified.
An over-excited brain
Your hyper response to the symptoms of acid reflux during stressful periods may be related to changes in your brain chemistry. During times of stress, the pain receptors in your esophagus get the message to become more active. As a result, small amounts of acid are that much more aggravating.
Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances that coat the lining of your stomach and protect it from the effects of acid. When you’re stressed, your prostaglandin levels naturally decline. This may mean you experience the effects of acid reflux more intensely.
Stress can lead to bad habits
When you’re stressed, you may be more likely to overeat, reach for chocolate or ice cream, drink more caffeine, or relax with a few alcoholic drinks. These behaviors can aggravate reflux.
Knowing why stress aggravates acid reflux is less important than knowing how to reduce stress -- and in turn, your symptoms.
Everyone is different when it comes to what works to reduce stress, but consider the following:
Exercise – whether that’s going for a walk, doing yoga, or hiking in the woods – is a powerful stress reducer.
In creative people, taking time for yourself to paint, write, or play music is effective in reducing stress.
Talking it out
Find a good friend, family member, trusted colleague, or professional therapist to listen to you vent and share your stressors. Sometimes just hearing your troubles out loud is effective in helping you find relief from the effects of stress.
If you do have acid reflux that’s affected by stress, Dr. Pothuri may be able to help. In addition to offering guidance about lifestyle changes to reduce stress, he can offer medications or other treatments to ease symptoms of reflux.
Keep up with the healthy habits that discourage acid reflux, too. Without them, your acid reflux flare-ups could be even worse.
If you live in the greater Houston, Texas, area and have acid reflux that seriously affects your quality of life, call GastroDoxs for a consultation or book an appointment online. We can help you find relief and easier digestion.