How Does Weight Gain Worsen Acid Reflux?

Mar 30, 2024

Millions of Americans suffer daily from a heartburn episode, and it is often a symptom of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). This condition damages your esophagus and causes serious discomfort that interferes with daily life activities. While occasional heartburn is normal, frequent episodes are a red flag and usually a common issue with obese people. So, is weight gain directly contributing to worsening acid reflux?

Is Weight Gain The Culprit?

Yes, weight gain that deviates you from normal BMI can cause or worsen acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Research clearly links both together, indicating that even minute amounts of weight gain can increase the risk of developing or exacerbating GERD symptoms. Excessive weight, especially around the abdomen, increases pressure on the stomach, leading to the upward flow of stomach acid into the esophagus. Losing weight by changing lifestyle habits, such as proper diet and exercise, improves GERD symptoms and reduces the risk of esophageal conditions.

What Are Some Common Symptoms Of GERD?

Some common signs include:

  • Heartburn
  • Acid reflux
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Problems swallowing
  • Pain while swallowing
  • Chronic cough
  • Voice hoarseness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Signs of bleeding in the digestive tract
  • Vomit containing blood or looking like coffee grounds
    stool containing blood or black and tarry
  • Unexplained weight loss

Common Triggers of GERD

More often than not, the stimuli mentioned below trigger acid reflux response:

  • Enjoying large and heavy meals right before lying down
  • Active and passive smoking
  • Eating high-fat foods like fried and fast foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Beverages like coffee, tea, and alcohol
  • Increased intake of NSAIDS – nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Other health conditions include connective tissue diseases or prior surgery
  • Certain medications that relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES)

GERD Management Techniques

Some common approaches include:

1. Lifestyle Changes

Everything starts with living healthy and managing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is like any other. Lifestyle modification plays a central role in controlling GERD symptoms, and this includes:

  • Weight management
  • Avoidance of trigger foods and beverages such as alcohol and spicy dishes
  • Waiting around 3 hours after meals before lying down
  • Elevating the head of the bed
  • Wearing loose-fitting clothing

All of the above-mentioned adjustments can reduce the frequency and severity of acid reflux episodes.

2. Medicinal Approach

When we talk about pharmacologic therapy, over-the-counter (OTC) antacids are a great means to provide relief from mild symptoms; on the other hand, H2 receptor antagonists are often recommended with moderate GERD.

In more severe cases, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as esomeprazole are commonly prescribed to reduce gastric acid secretion and promote healing of the esophagus.

3. Surgical Intervention

If all of the above-mentioned techniques fail to handle acid reflux due to GERD and weight gain, surgical intervention may be considered apt for such individuals. Surgery strengthens the lower esophageal sphincter and consequently prevents acid reflux.

Regular monitoring and follow-up with a professional are key tools to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment and make necessary adjustments if needed to ensure the long-term management of GERD.

Closing Note

By combining these strategies, people with acid reflux due to GERD and heavy weight can effectively control their symptoms, enhance their quality of life, and reduce the risk of complications associated with the condition. If you want to learn ways we can be of help, get in touch with experts at Nova Bariatrics by dialing (469) 639-0953 Irving, TX 75063, or (682) 284-1786 Arlington, TX 76015.

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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