How Can GERD Cause Headaches?

Nov 15, 2023

Acid reflux affects over 60 million Americans every month, with more than 15 million experiencing daily discomfort. Heartburns or acid reflux are acute. However, if your discomfort is constant, the culprit is GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). But what if this condition persists and comes in combination with other issues like headaches and even dizziness? What to do then? Well, take this blog as your initial guide to deal with this combo, but first, let’s establish the basic connection between headache and GERD.

The GERD-Headache Connection

So, can GERD cause headaches? Yes. Recent studies have solved the mystery behind the link between them. Several theories are present to explain this connection. One pivots on increased sensitivity to pain in the body, particularly within the parasympathetic system. Dysfunction in the autonomic nervous system is linked to both GERD and migraines, contributing to the development of either condition. Food allergies, medications, and serotonin levels are shared triggers between headaches and GERD acid reflux, playing a role in their joint venture.

Can Acid Reflux Cause Dizziness Along With Headaches?

While talking about the GERD-headache link, it is essential to understand that dizziness can also occur. Migraines and severe headaches have long been associated with dizziness, but recent evidence suggests that GERD may contribute to this issue.

GERD forces acid back into the esophagus, leading to irritation or a burning sensation. In some cases, stomach acids reach the eustachian tubes in your throat, which connect to the inner ear. Now, since the ear plays a role in balance, disruptions in ear pressure result in dizziness.

Managing GERD, Headaches, and Dizziness

Here are some treatments that work:

1. Acid-Controlling Medication

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications include antacids, histamine antagonists (H2 blockers), and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). These reduce the acid flow that triggers headaches and dizziness.

2. Headache Medication

Over-the-counter pills like acetaminophen (Tylenol) for headaches work wonders. However, you must be cautious with the dosage to prevent liver toxicity.

3. Avoid Reclining After Eating

Stay upright for approximately 3 hours after eating to prevent acid flow. Smaller meals eaten earlier in the day can speed up digestion, reducing the chances of reflux.

4. Reduce or Eliminate Nicotine Use

Nicotine, a component of cigarettes and vaping products, relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing acid to flow upward. Quitting nicotine alleviates both acid reflux and headaches.

5. Limit Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol triggers heartburn and headaches. Reduce intake to ease discomfort.

6. Dietary Modifications

Certain foods, like spicy or high-fat options, exacerbate GERD. Having large meals, especially before bedtime, is a major contributor to this condition. Identify your trigger foods and adjust your diet to reduce symptoms.

7. Elevate Your Upper Body during Sleep

Sleeping in an inclined position can prevent GERD symptoms. Use bed risers, a foam wedge, or a firm, high pillow.

8. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Excess weight weakens the lower esophageal sphincter, making reflux more common. If you are overweight, shedding some pounds can help reduce symptoms.

9. Monitor Medications

Some prescription medications can irritate the stomach lining or relax the esophageal sphincter. Discuss any side effects with your doctor and explore alternative treatments if needed.

Closing Note

GERD, headaches, and dizziness interconnect in multiple ways. Understanding this link can help you manage your symptoms effectively. Get in touch with Dr. Mustafa H. Alibhai, a board-certified general surgeon at Nova Bariatrics, at (469) 639-0953 for more information or queries of any sort for your condition. You can also visit us for a physical checkup.

Dr. Mustafa H. Alibhai

Dr. Alibhai, a board-certified general surgeon, passionately leads Nova Bariatrics and General Surgery. Formerly an Assistant Professor at McGovern Medical School, he’s a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons. His academic journey includes a Bachelor’s from Southern Methodist University, Medical School at UT Southwestern, and residencies at UT Southwestern. Specializing further, he completed Bariatric and Robotic Fellowships, advancing surgical techniques with a focus on patient well-being.

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