Can stress be a cause of heartburn and acid reflux?

Many people may not realize about the risks that chronic stress can bring to their life. Stress stands as a major risk factor in modern lifestyle including heart disease and stroke. In our earlier article we mentioned about the connection of stress with heart disease or stroke with preventive measures. Nowadays people are facing heartburn or gastro-esophageal acid reflux as common health disorder. Here we try to find whether can stress be a cause of heartburn and acid reflux?

We also mentioned in our earlier article about leakage of acid from stomach to esophageal resulting to acidity or heartburn. The stomach is designed to have acidic environment as normal bodily function, but not the esophagus. So small amount of leakage of acid to esophagus, whether strong or weak, can irritate the esophagus lining. As a result you will feel symptoms of heartburn or acidity. In long term it damages the esophagus, and you may require a surgical procedure. Antacid or other acid suppressor may give temporarily relief from symptoms but does not give permanent solution. Rather it worsen the situation and can lead to nutrition deficiency and other health disorder in long term.

Also read: 6 hidden causes of acid reflux and heartburn, natural remedies 

Can stress be a cause of heartburn and acid reflux?

Stress affects the nervous system and creates a situation like fight or flight. Stress also affects hormonal functions impairs blood circulation as well as increases blood pressure. Psycho-social stress also alters the function of the gastrointestinal tract -research evidenced. After all chronic stress makes the functional system imbalance. In recent study published in BMC Gastroenterology in 2018, confirmed the relationship of physical, emotional and social stress with gastrointestinal disorders.(1)

However the mechanism, how stress impact on acid reflux still not very clear and debatable. Regardless how it works, researchers found evidences.

Study evidences

In a study conducted on 6834 people as published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences, researcher concluded that Gastro-esophageal reflux is significantly associated with psycho-social stress, and the severity of Gastro-esophageal reflux correlates with the degree of stress.(2)

Many people may not realize it, but lifestyle factors play many health related roles in modern life. In another population-based study conducted on more 40,000 people as published in the Journal  Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology reveals that stressful psycho-social factors, including job strain put more risk of  Gastro-esophageal reflux. Persons with low job satisfaction had experienced twice increased risk of GERD compared to persons reporting high job satisfaction.(3)

In a study published in American Journal of Gastroenterology revealed that people with chronic anxiety and stress reported painful gastro-esophageal reflux symptoms. They also informed people with reflux pain showed no increase in parameter like stomach acid.(4)

A study on 12,653 people, concluded that lifestyle factors plays important role in gastro-esophageal reflux disease in people with impaired digestion.(5)



Dangers of chronic stress

Human body works as a whole, not in isolation. You may know that brain signalling regulates hormonal productions inside the body. And what will happen if chronic stress impairs normal brain signalling. All of us know that importance of hormone in overall good health and wellness of the body. So, what will happen if hormonal production is malfunctioned? In long term what can conditions like hormonal imbalance, impaired circulation bring to your body? The answer, I am leaving to you.

Bottom Line:

I wish to repeat again that chronic stress stands as one major risk factor in modern lifestyle. Socio-economic stress, job related stress, psychological stress creating havoc to modern lifestyle. Incidents like heart disease or stroke are increasing day by day. Those scenarios were not frequent in the past. If you are in severe chronic stress, don’t ignore, consult with a physician. Sometimes I wonder to where we are heading towards. We are running after what and what is running after us? Humans are destroying life in this planet and searching life in a new planet.

We may not change economical or social structure. But we can definitely follow some good lifestyle habits that will help the life in a great way. A positive mind finds way in problems. Problems in life is inevitable, everybody has their own problems. Convert problem to challenge with a positive direction. Plan your activities, priorities. Learn to say “no” whenever it is not feasible as in critical situation this may put you in stress. Help others if you can.

Good food, good habit gives positivity. Remember a good health is built majorly in kitchen not in Gym. Exercises help to drain out stress as well as keeping fitness level up. Yoga, meditation helps in developing mental peace, improve core strength, flexibility. Good sleep and music helps your body to relax. Find time with your own, with family and friends. Be happy my friend, live life.

Related post: Most common causes of lifestyle diseases and prevention.

And finally my friend, I request you put your valuable input or update to carry forward the subject.

Sources & references:
1.Functional gastrointestinal diseases and psychological maladjustment, personality traits and 
quality of life, Ranasinghe N1, Devanarayana NM2, Rajindrajith S3, Perera MS4, Nishanthinie S4,
Warnakulasuriya T4, de Zoysa PT5.,BMC Gastroenterol. 2018 Feb 27;18(1):33. 
2.The Association Between Reflux Esophagitis and Psychosocial Stress,Eun Mi Song, Hye-Kyung Jung,corresponding author 
and Ji Min Jung, Dig Dis Sci. 2013 Feb; 58(2): 471–477
3.Stressful psychosocial factors and symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease: a population-based
 study in Norway,Catarina Jansson, Mari-Ann Wallander, Saga Johansson, Roar Johnsen & Kristian Hveem,
Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology,Pages 21-29, 06 Dec 2009
4.The relationship between stress and symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux: the influence of psychological
 factors,Bradley LA1, Richter JE, Pulliam TJ, Haile JM, Scarinci IC, Schan CA, Dalton CB, Salley AN.,
Am J Gastroenterol. 1993 Jan;88(1):11-9
5.Lifestyle Factors and Efficacy of Lifestyle Interventions in Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Patients 
with Functional Dyspepsia: Primary Care Perspectives from the LEGEND Study,Ken Haruma, Yoshikazu Kinoshita, 
Shigeru Sakamoto, Katsuyuki Sanada, Shinzo Hiroi, Hiroto Miwa,J-STAGE home,Internal Medicine,Volume 54 (2015)
 Issue 7,Article overview
Bikramjit Konwar

Author: Bikramjit Konwar


8 Responses

  1. This is something I wasn’t aware of. Till about three months back I had several acid reflux problem and yes, I was under a lot of stress. I knew never stress could be the reason behind this condition.
    Wonderful article.

    1. Yes Sir, stress is a major problem in modern lifestyle, thanks for your valuable input of love and understanding, plays very close part of human

  2. Important post. Stress is a very important causative factor for may chronic illness. Be it heart disease or be it acidity.

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