If you suffer from anxiety, there’s a good chance that you also experience acid reflux. But how exactly are GERD and anxiety linked? Today, we’ll take a look at how anxiety and heartburn go together.
What Is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is the feeling of discomfort or pain in your chest caused by stomach acid coming up into your esophagus and irritating it. It can be brought on by certain foods such as spicy foods, caffeine, chocolate, and alcohol; medications like NSAIDs (ibuprofen) and insulin; conditions, such as being overweight or obese; pregnancy; lying down after eating; and an unhealthy diet low in fiber and high in fat and sugar content.
The Link Between Anxiety and Acid Reflux
Can anxiety cause acid reflux? While it doesn’t always, it can.
Anxiety and reflux can be related because anxiety causes problems with the body’s relaxation response; it is a physical reaction to stress. When we are stressed, our bodies release cortisol and adrenaline (epinephrine). These two hormones make us alert and ready for action: fight or flight mode. While this was an important survival tool in our early days, it is not that helpful today. Our bodies perceive the physical symptoms of anxiety (increased heart rate and blood pressure) as dangerous like “fight or flight.” To protect our stomachs from damage, we subconsciously inhibit them by contracting muscles in our esophagus during times of stress; this can lead to acid reflux symptoms.
Since anxiety and acid reflux are related, it makes sense that our bodies release cortisol and adrenaline when we get stressed out; this helps us to deal with the stressful situation at hand by either fighting or fleeing. However, because of these physical reactions (increased heart rate and blood pressure), they can lead to stomach damage if we inhibit our stomach muscles. Basically, our bodies are not able to tell the difference between anxiety and a dangerous physical situation, which can cause acid reflux symptoms.
Is There a Connection Between Anxiety and Gastrointestinal Surgery?
Anxiety and gastrointestinal surgery in Baltimore can be related because surgery, even when it goes perfectly, carries stress. Stress releases cortisol and adrenaline as mentioned above. In addition, surgeries that specifically involve the gastrointestinal tract can result in various side effects, including those that impact stomach acid.