Heartburn is an unpleasant sensation in the chest and abdomen that might complicate the whole lifestyle. Recently there has been more research about heartburn and its connection with stress. This means that for the people who have chronic heartburn, it is important to try avoiding hectic and upsetting life experiences. Also, people who have stress in their daily life might rethink how to minimalize it to avoid further health complications.
Stress studies related to heartburn
Physiological stressors have a connection with increased “in functional and inflammatory disorders of the gastrointestinal tract.” Various research confirmed this assumption. In one of them, sixty people with heartburn symptoms were assessed for the presence of stressful life events for the minimum of 6 months. The evaluation lasted four months. As a result, present of sustained stress experienced increased heartburn symptoms:
- Pain in the chest
- Pressure in the chest/abdomen area
- Difficulty breathing
- Pain in the arm or jaw
An additional measurement was also done to psychological symptoms that usually come together with stress:
- Vital exhaustion (you can read more about thyroid and fatigue here)
- Depression (read also about its medication link to stress and nutrition deficiency)
Anxiety showed the strongest connection “to impaired quality of life and depression to heartburn medication use.”1 An interesting conclusion from the study is that heartburn severity is the most triggered by major life events not by minor stressors or fluctuations in mood. Vital exhaustion partially coming from sustained stress has the closest association with heartburn exacerbation.
Direct stress effect on heartburn:
- Increased level and frequency of esophageal acid exposure
- Inhibition of gastric emptying of acid
- stress-induced hypersensitivity (undesirable reactions from immune system)
- Problems with digestion – it comes from “response to stress is the inhibition of peristalsis. Peristalsis is the contraction of smooth muscle that propels food along the digestive tract.” This results in slow movement of food in the digestive tract. This process is called hypomotility and is an important factor in chronic heartburn (GERD).
- Increased cortisol – comes from an impact of long-term stress. The further problem this change causes is increased production stomach acid that can lead to heartburn. The second problem comes along with increased cortisol is increased inflammatory response thus it increases heartburn symptoms.
Stress is undesirable, and it can cause heartburn. In the modern life, it is not easy. Board certified nutrition specialist Chen Ben Asher suggests eating a small meal every few hours full of carbohydrates and protein to get along with the most stressful parts of the day. This approach stimulates a release of insulin, and that is important as it deals with the negative effects of cortisol. There are also other options that only a specialist can suggest. The first step is to understand the link between stress and heartburn.
 Stress and Heartburn. Accessed from: http://www.heartburnheadquarters.com/stress-and-heartburn/