Many medical studies have found that the more stress a person experiences, the more likely it is they will suffer from heartburn, the most common symptom of acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This has lead suffers to wonder if acid reflux is just one of the symptoms of stress or can actually be caused by stress
The answer is that stress can cause acid reflux. However, in the vast majority of cases, stress doesn’t actually trigger acid reflux; stress exacerbates its other causes.
How can stress directly cause acid reflux? When you are stressed, your body naturally sends more blood to your muscles in an effort to help provide them with the additional energy needed to better manage your stress.
Unfortunately, when this occurs, the body is robbing blood from other vital areas such as your digestive system. Without the necessary amount of blood required for normal digestion, the digestion process slows down. This causes food and harsh digestive acids to stay in your stomach longer, which increases your risk of acid reflux and heartburn, as well as other discomforts such as bloating and constipation.
How does stress contribute to other causes of acid reflux? When we are stressed we tend to disregard healthy living and adopt self-destructive behaviors. For instance, some of us…
- Eat “comfort” foods – chocolate, fatty, fried or spicy foods
- Eat faster or “on the run”.
- Drink more caffeine
- Use stress as a reason not to exercise
- Take more over-the-counter medications such as NSAIDs (I.E. ibuprofen, aspirin, etc.) for headaches and other stress-related bodily aches and pains.
- Resort to excessive drinking and/or smoking to help ease the pressure we feel.
All of these behaviors have the potential to lead to acid reflux, and the longer the behaviors last, the higher your risk.
Therefore, it is essential that you eliminate stress to help prevent acid reflux. Relieving stress is simply a matter of alleviating your worries by practicing stress management. Of course, this is often easier said than done, which is why it is important that you find a stress relief approach that works for you. To help you on your path to reduce stress levels, the following are some suggestions.
Tips for managing stress
- Discover the root of your stress – You need to face the issues causing your stress, and either work on fixing the problem(s), or let it go. Unless your stress is caused by something you can change, you need to ask yourself if your health is worth worrying about something you cannot change or have no control over?
- Talk to someone – Talking to someone about your problems can help alleviate your stress. Knowing that someone else cares and is willing to listen makes us feel less alone and more important.
- Make healthy food choices – You need to avoid the foods and beverages that are known to trigger heartburn including: foods high in fat, spicy foods, chocolate, mint, onions, tomatoes, citrus fruit, caffeinated beverages (coffee, tea, and soda), decaffeinated coffee (has low levels of caffeine and is still very acidic), alcohol, and citrus juices. For more details take a look at the Acid Reflux Food Lists.
- Stop smoking – if you smoke cigarettes, you may feel that smoking helps you manage your stress by calming your nerves. However, smoking has been proven to disrupt sleep, which is detrimental to your health and can increase the impact of stress. So, despite how smoking may make you feel the health risks far outnumber the fleeting comfort.
- Stretch and Breathe – Stand up every once in a while and do a few stretches along with some deep breathing exercises to encourage blood flow, release tension, rejuvenate your muscles, and your brain.
- Exercise – Staying active not only encourages a healthy weight and appetite, it also makes you feel good about yourself and puts you in a great mood. However, if you suffer from frequent acid reflux or GERD, you need to be careful what exercises you choose to engage in, as some exercises can aggravate your acid reflux symptoms. Good examples of heartburn friendly exercises include the following low impact activities: Walking, moderate cycling, swimming, ballroom dancing, and even housework (that last one’s optional!)
- Relax and enjoy some “me” time – Take the time to enjoy doing things you like. Everyone deserves a break and some time to engage in their hobbies or play. Do something that makes you smile and laugh.
- Get a good night sleep – Sleep is important to your overall mental and physical functioning. Insomnia or broken sleep is a symptom of stress. To help get a good nights sleep, don’t eat a few hours before you go to bed, and spend an hour or two before going to bed relaxing and unwinding by reading a book, taking a bath, drinking herbal tea (not peppermint as it can cause acid reflux), etc. Your goal is to shut your mind off.
Remember, before engaging in any exercise or diet program to tackle causes of stress, consult your doctor first.
Acid Reflux Treatment
If you are suffering from acid reflux, GERD or heartburn most doctors will recommend some form of prescription medication to combat the symptoms you are experiencing. The problem with this approach is apart from being expensive, most medications prescribed for acid reflux, heartburn and GERD are not designed for long term use and tend to mask the problem rather than addressing it.
For reliable acid reflux, heartburn and GERD treatment information that focuses on preventing and controlling symptoms naturally, read Stop Acid Reflux Now; an easy to follow, comprehensively researched downloadable book by Kathryn Whittaker.
Stop Acid Reflux Now shows you how to easily take control of your acid reflux, heartburn and GERD symptoms through the use of effective natural methods that avoid the need for expensive medications. Read how some really simple lifestyle changes can have a huge positive effect on your health, enhancing the quality of your life.