The connections between mind and body play an important role in the occurrence of various pathological conditions.
Acid reflux (and its related symptoms) is not an exception.
In fact, there are several psychological factors that can activate the mechanism at the base of acid reflux.
What matters most is is that, under certain psychological conditions, even a proper treatment is not effective how it should be.
Stress is exactly one of such psychological factors: is you are stressed, in spite of your efforts to achieve a normal quality of life, you will not succeed.
And this triggers a chain reaction that further worsens things, in fact:
- Phase 1: you feel stressed and this impairs your quality of life
- Phase 2: your quality of life also makes you make bad decisions in your eating habits
- Phase 3: such wrong eating habits trigger acid reflux and related symptoms
- Phase 4: you feel more stressed and the vicious circle starts all over again
This is just one of the possible relationships between acid reflux and stress.
There’s much more, however, you must remember a general rule (explained in the following paragraph) since the very beginnings.
Acid Reflux And Stress: A Decisive Connection
When you’re dealing with both of these conditions, you must take care of your stress before changing your eating habits and adopt a proper lifestyle.
This is the basic rule to remember.
It is an established fact today that acid reflux from stress is more frequent and serious than it might seem.
This does not mean that you can’t get rid of symptoms, however, you have to work on both conditions with consistency.
Some people report symptoms of acid reflux at particular times, such as university exams or job interviews: more in general, they feel symptoms (especially heartburn) under particularly stressful conditions.
This is not we’re going to consider, however, it gives you a better idea of what happens. People who are under stress feel heartburn, and this may happen with frequency, meaning a more serious condition.
There are several studies that confirmed this relationship: more precisely, there is a specific link between stressful psychosocial factors, including job strain, and GERD symptoms.
Very interesting to note that the above-mentioned study talks about GERD: this means that, if left untreated (or improperly treated), things can get worse quickly.
One more time, we want to stress (exactly) about the importance of working on this factor before (or, at least, during) your treatment for reflux, otherwise, you won’t have any success.
Heartburn And Stress
Heartburn is the main symptom of acid reflux, and when stress is involved this symptom is felt more, and people are generally more concerned about it.
However, heartburn is not alone, meaning that it comes along with several other symptoms, more or less typical, all exacerbated by stress.
They are, in general:
- stomach upset
- chest pain
- throat burning
- loss of appetite
A special mention for chest pain, we’ll see later why it’s so important in people with acid reflux and stress.
Stress and any psychological factor, including anxiety and depression (both frequent in people with chronic reflux) is able to generate an intricate cycle of physical and emotional turmoil.
That’s why scientists for one side and patients from the other they must always deal with both conditions.
This means, first of all, understand what the first trigger is, and what the direct consequence.
Because things can be quite complicated, and without knowledge, no treatments will be effective in the long run.
Acid Reflux Caused By Stress: Is That Really Possible?
Given the close relationship between acid reflux and stress, it’s now the time to better understand what are (or can be) the specific aspects that make it so important to work on both of these conditions.
First of all, several studies have shown that stress can produce altered gastrointestinal motility and symptoms.
In addition, it has also been noted that stress can exacerbate heartburn symptoms in GERD patients. This happens because stress is able to enhance the perceptual response to intra-esophageal acid exposure.
Moreover, another study found that higher levels of anxiety can induce an overall tendency toward the non-propulsive activity of the esophagus.
In other words, the swallowed food could remain in the esophagus for longer, thus simulating reflux.
According to other findings, stress (in joint action with anxiety) may cause longer lasting muscle tension.
This could increase the pressure levels inside the stomach, with the result of pushing the acid material upwards (into the esophagus).
In some cases, however, the opposite is true.
When it comes to acid reflux and stress, anxiety and depression levels can be significantly higher in subjects with GERD (notably in the NERD, meaning Non-Erosive Esophageal Reflux Disease) than in healthy people.
This answers to another equally important question, namely if it may be possible that acid reflux causes stress (more details later).
In conclusion, we can say that acid reflux and stress have a double-direction relationship, then acting well on both of them will make life a lot better.
Acid reflux due to stress
We know that the acidity is not the main factor for reflux.
However, it has been reported that personality traits may be quite important in determining the production of acid in the stomach, and this may predispose to reflux.
To be more clear, people who generally have a higher level of impulsivity and show emotions more freely are more likely to react with a significant increase in gastric acid secretion when stimulated by stress.
As a consequence, stress could actually induce objective reflux of gastric contents, and this can lead to esophagus inflammation, even without the typical symptoms of reflux.
There’s another equally interesting reason why stress could possibly cause acid reflux.
While not much discussed, stress can induce reflux esophagitis because it increases the esophageal mucosal permeability.
This has been demonstrated in experimental rats: when exposed to acute stress, dilated intercellular spaces in the mucosa can be observed.
The direct consequence is a much higher mucosal sensitivity to acidic aggressions, with a more significant inflammatory process.
Finally, stress has a direct action on health-related behaviors such as smoking, diet, alcohol consumption, or physical activity, which in turn may influence the risk of developing actual acid reflux.
Given that, it’s legitimate to ask the following question.
Is acid reflux worse with stress?
This is a quite challenging question to answer.
To keep things simple, we can say that there are two reasons why acid reflux in the presence of stress could be more serious.
Given the frequent association between stress and anxiety, it has been proved that people with both of these conditions may perceive low-intensity esophageal stimuli as painful reflux symptoms.
This is even more important if we think that those people did not have an actual increase in gastric acid.
It’s just a matter of perception of symptoms, which are amplified by the stress condition.
This is also what hinders the success of treatment: the reduction of symptoms is more difficult, just because of the presence of such a low perception threshold.
Acid reflux causes stress: what about that?
This is certainly possible, just because of the close relationship between acid reflux and stress.
In particular, this applies to chronic reflux symptoms.
In fact, they represent very bothersome experience in daily living, with a significant impairment of the quality of life. Depending on their intensity and frequency, they are an important risk factor for developing constant stress over time.
But there’s more.
Chronic reflux (with all related symptoms) is very likely to cause sleep disturbance and/or decreased work productivity.
Both of these situations are a powerful stressor, which in turn accentuates the reflux symptoms. And the vicious circle never seems to end.
With more details, it has been noted that daytime sleepiness is more associated with GERD, even though all chronic symptoms play an important role in determining the disease.
That’s why we must clarify at best what these symptoms really are.
Acid Reflux And Stress Symptoms
Heartburn is the main manifestation of stress-induced acid reflux.
To be more precise, all symptoms are generally exacerbated in the presence of stress and even anxiety.
So, you have to consider what follows:
- symptoms that generally are typical in acid reflux sufferers are more felt
- symptoms that generally are typical in people under stress make them more sensitive to the above
Common manifestations of stress are:
- increased heart rate
- increased blood pressure and pulse rate
- increased respiratory rate
- increased alertness
This is the reason why a person under stress feels much more stimuli than others, including heartburn and other reflux-related symptoms.
The relationship between acid reflux and stress
As a direct consequence, a person who suffers from reflux and stress can experience a significant improvement in his/her quality of life by simply taking care of stress alone.
In fact, he/she will raise his/her threshold of perception of such stimuli: this will give the sensation that also many reflux-related symptoms will disappear.
Things can get complicated when other typical symptoms of stress also occur:
- chronic pain
- psychological troubles (up to depression)
- other less common symptoms, such as frequent cold, low energy, sweating, and more
All the above can make it much harder to follow a proper program to treat acid reflux, that’s why is so important to work on stress before, and then your treatment will increase chances to be successful.
Can stress cause heartburn and nausea?
Heartburn and nausea are quite common in people who are stressed, even though there is another typical reflux symptom that most frequently accompanies heartburn in stressed subjects: chest pain.
In fact, stress (but also anxiety and depression) are generally higher in people with GERD, and even higher in people with GERD who report heartburn and chest pain as a symptom.
This means for some people heartburn and nausea are not so concerning, while in the presence of chest pain, things may change a lot.
A double relationship that requires a very comprehensive approach, which does not neglect psychological aspects.
Unfortunately, it is very naive to think that simple food changes can solve the problem, and the same goes for prescription medications and/or chemical drugs.
You need a holistic approach, and that’s why we want to suggest some very good protocols.
Acid Reflux And Stress Natural Remedies
There are some rules to follow when it comes to dealing with acid reflux and stress.
The essential premise is that you have to work on your stressors first, then you can follow a program aimed at reducing root causes and relieving symptoms of acid reflux.
This is very important because stress and anxiety can hinder even the best possible treatment, meaning that whatever your attitude, you’re not going to be successful.
So, work on stress first.
Then, you have to consider acid reflux as a whole, and a holistic approach is the best option.
You must remember the three essential pillars of good treatment.
They are the following:
The final goal for people who are dealing with acid reflux and stress is not to get rid of the disease and/or all symptoms but to achieve a completely normal quality of life in the shortest possible time.
Acid reflux stress treatment
As we anticipated before, the best option is to consider a holistic approach to acid reflux and stress.
This is particularly valid in the case you are experiencing some difficulties in removing stressors before starting a full treatment.
The #1 option we suggest to consider is the so-called 5-Step Program that considers all aspects that may possibly be related to acid reflux (including stress).
By following the program, you can find some quick fixes to start the correction of the most important factors in a short time, and then devote yourself to more long-term objectives.
The other interesting option to consider is a complete “kit” to get rid of any additional conditions that make acid reflux harder to control.
Stress certainly is one of such factors, that’s why we want to recommend this specific program as the #2 option to consider.
There are then many other possible “fixes” for stress and many other psychological troubles that can make acid reflux more felt and concerning.
We’ll post specific updates soon about all of them.
In the meantime, our warm suggestion is to remove stressors first and, if this is not possible at this time, at least to start with one of the above programs because they also consider stress as a powerful factor that makes reflux worse and more serious over time.
Acid reflux and stress are strongly related to each other.
However, this topic still needs more consideration, because it’s generally underrated.
To this end, we want you to remember at least 18 takeaways, listed below.
In most cases, the simple reduction os stress makes reflux much more bearable, with a significant improvement in the quality of life.
What To Do Next
Now, it’s time to take action.
We strongly suggest considering the above-indicated programs to start your journey towards the achievement of a normal quality of life.
If you wish, there are at least two additional options to consider.
The #3 one is called “Acid Reflux Strategy”, and it’s a comprehensive program that can work well for people who are dealing with reflux after they overcome stressors and psychological factors.
The #4 one is particularly suggested for people who have reflux and other digestive conditions at the same time, starting from H. pylori infection.
The presence of additional infections can make stress even worse, that’s why you should consider a broader approach.
We’ll post other special options to consider soon, so stay tuned.
For the moment, thank you for your attention!