The Heartburn & Weight Loss Connection
We talk about our heart health, our joint health and our mental health, but when you put everything together you get one highly functioning being. One health defect can act as a wrench in this otherwise perfect system: a single thing goes wrong and it affects other areas of our health as well.
This is the case with obesity. Sure, your excess weight can make it difficult to move around easily or make you feel uncomfortable in your clothing, but carrying around excess weight also affects a plethora of other aspects of your health—including heartburn.
The problem with studying the way our healthy experiences interact with one another is that as humans, we are constantly moving around. We are exposed to external stimuli daily. How are we to know that our heartburn is caused by our excess weight, and not by the smog on the turnpike or the chemical content of the tap water?
For this reason research has been slow to determine causal relationships between certain ailments, but as more and more research piles up on the matter most experts in the medical field will agree on the relationships between certain conditions.
Obesity and Acid Reflux: The How and Why
As bodily systems go, the digestive system is one of the better defined arrangements in the human body. When we swallow food it travels through the esophagus until it reaches the stomach, at which point the lower esophageal sphincter or LES opens and allows food to pass. Once the food reaches the stomach it is broken down with the help of digestive juices. When all is working properly, the LES will open and close in such a fashion that food will travel down one way and digestive juices won’t get the chance to travel up the other way.
For patients with GERD, this doesn’t happen. The LES dysfunctions and digestive juices travel upwards, wreaking havoc on the esophageal lining all the way up to the throat.
What does obesity have to do with this?
Those with visceral or stomach fat are going to be at the greatest risk of developing heartburn. When excess weight sits on the stomach it adds pressure—in some cases a great deal of pressure, depending on how much excess weight is located around the stomach. The excess weight presses down on the stomach, and that pressure makes it difficult for the LES to work properly. With the LES more likely to dysfunction, acid is more likely to escape the stomach and irritate the esophageal lining, and you are more likely to feel the burning sensation that goes along with it.
Losing weight isn’t going to cure everyone’s heartburn, but it can often make heartburn less severe. In addition to your existing heartburn treatment plan, try losing weight to reduce the frequency of your acid reflux. You might be surprised by how much losing weight improves other areas of your health as well!