An introduction to how body weight can contribute to acid reflux
Being overweight or obese could be having a part to play in terms of your symptoms of acid reflux, as body weight is now known to be a contributing factor.
Even small reductions in body weight could have beneficial effects in terms of the extra pressure being put on the stomach and the symptoms of acid reflux which might be cropping up as a result.
How can body weight contribute to acid reflux?
Research has shown that an increase in body weight by even 10-20 pounds, is associated with a threefold increase in the symptoms of acid reflux, including heartburn, and more importantly, a reduction in body weight can help reverse some of those symptoms1. So why exactly is this the case – what is it the link between body weight and acid reflux?
The exact mechanism isn’t well understood, however, extra weight around the tummy area is thought to change the pressure inside the stomach, which in turn, can affect the functioning of the Lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS). This band of muscle separates the stomach from the oesophagus and is important for controlling what enters the stomach and preventing the contents of the stomach coming back out. If it isn’t functioning as it should, acid reflux can easily occur.
Women can have the same issue during pregnancy too - click the link to read more on how you can manage your symptoms safely.
What can I try at home to help manage my body weight?
As we now know, if you suffer from acid reflux, plus you are carrying a few extra pounds, losing some weight might just be a good place to start. Below are some easy diet and lifestyle tips for helping you to manage your weight:
- Think about your diet. Dietary changes may help you to shift that extra weight. Consider your portion sizes, try to limit processed, or particularly fatty or sugary foods, watch your intake of carbohydrates and don’t be afraid to include sources of good quality protein and healthy fats in each meal
- Exercise. Successful weight loss centres around energy balance, so, as you expel more energy than you take in, you lose weight. Moving more, and taking part in regular exercise (as well as diet!) helps support this process. Also, as you build more lean muscle mass, your resting metabolic rate improves so you can burn more calories, even whilst doing very little – bonus!
- Manage stress. Stress could also be having negative effects on your waist line. As part of your stress response, adrenalin is released which frees up sugar into your blood stream to be used for energy. However, if the release of these sugars aren’t put to good use (in many cases of modern day stress we are emotionally rather than physically stressed – sitting at your desk in work won’t expel masses of energy!) any residual stores are deposited around the tummy, near the liver, where they can be accessed easily by the necessary hormones if need be. These stores can build up over time and fat can collect around the middle.
How can natural remedies help me?
There are some natural remedies which could come in useful if you are struggling with managing your weight and acid reflux as a result of this:
- Herbal bitters. To help manage the symptoms of acid reflux, bitter herbs can come in useful. Digestisan is a traditional herbal remedy containing extracts of artichoke, dandelion, boldo and peppermint, used to help relieve the symptoms of indigestion
- Support the gut. How you breakdown and absorb your food is very important for supporting your weight, as is the balance of bacteria in the gut. Molkosan, made from fermented whey, acts as a prebiotic to help support the balance of the gut flora. Gut bacteria have an important part to play in the metabolism of sugars and starches, so it’s important we support them.
How can my doctor help?
If you have exhausted all efforts trying to lose weight, your doctor might be able to help, or at least refer you on to someone who can such as a dietitian. In the meantime, they may also be able to prescribe medication to help manage the discomfort caused by the acid reflux.
1.Friedenberg, FK and Xanthopoulos, M et al. The association between gastroesophageal reflux disease and obesity, The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2008, 103, (2111-2122)