Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Your stress can trigger heartburn and acidity

Dr. Shivaram Prasad Singh discusses the reasons and symptoms of GERD and explains the role of stress in aggravating the disease

Published: Apr 3, 2023 03:34:11 PM IST
Updated: Apr 5, 2023 11:21:52 AM IST

Your stress can trigger heartburn and acidityIt might be surprising to know that the majority of people suffering from chronic anxiety and stress have complaints of severe acid reflux and heartburn. Stress or anxiety once in a while does not pose much concern, but stress over some time can have deleterious effects on our bodies. Additionally, stress is directly correlated to acidity, implying the more stressed a person is, he/she will experience the symptoms of acid reflux or heartburn to a greater extent.

Several studies have shown that whenever a person is stressed or anxious, they tend to experience more severe symptoms as they become more sensitive to gastric acids. It has to be noted that under stressful or anxious situations, one does not produce more gastric acid but becomes sensitive to even small amounts of gastric acids resulting in symptoms. This occurs due to a lot of chemical changes happening in the brain, which in turn act on the pain receptors thus making the person more sensitive to pain.

Stress also depletes a chemical called prostaglandin that helps in protecting the stomach from the ill effects of gastric acid, as a result, a stressed person can feel extreme discomfort from gastric acid.  Stress also alters the way the food pipe or esophagus works. The muscles of the esophagus and the sphincter of the esophagus that prevents the backward flow of stomach acids are reduced thus resulting in symptoms of GERD.
Hence, the treatment and management measures to “Guard against GERD” involve both lifestyle modifications that include stress coping mechanisms and medical treatment with medicines.

Some of the important tips to manage stress include
1. Use guided meditation - Guided meditation is a great way to distract yourself from the stress of day-to-day life.
2. Practice deep breathing- deep breathing is a great way to reduce the activation of your sympathetic nervous system, which controls the body’s response to a perceived threat. Deep breathing can help in activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn can reduce overall stress and anxiety levels.
3. Maintain physical exercise and good nutrition- Physical exercise and nutrition are two important components in how one responds to stress. Physical exercise is proven to be a great stress reliever and also helps to improve the overall quality of life. Meanwhile, nutrition is important as stress can deplete certain vitamins, and maintaining proper nutrition will allow the body to combat stress.
4. Manage social media time- Spending time on social media sites can become stressful. The time spent on social media can be used for visiting friends, being outside enjoying the weather, or reading a great book.
5. Self-care- Life, and particularly work, can be stressful. Self-care is not a nice-to-have but essential to keep us functioning well and improving our overall well-being. (Bush, 2015)

Issued in Public Interest by Dr.Reddy's Laboratories LTD

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