Can Acid Reflux Be Caused By Stress?

Oct 13, 2023

Suppose you suffer from acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease. Do your symptoms tend to flare up at inopportune times, such as immediately before a big event, like a job interview or your daughter's wedding?

If you have heartburn, you probably shouldn't eat Uncle Ned's spicy chilli and shouldn't drink orange juice first thing in the morning. However, kids might not be as aware of how initial impressions with parents or a presentation could affect their symptoms.

Some surveys and research have suggested that emotional stress might contribute to acid reflux. You can keep your stomach at peace even in the most challenging situations by employing helpful coping strategies.

What's The Connection?

How an illness affects, a person might be affected by circumstances related to that person's way of life. Stress from work was found to significantly increase the risk for GERD symptoms in a 2009 research that analyzed health questionnaires from more than 40,000 Norwegians.

Compared to individuals who claimed high job satisfaction, those who reported low job satisfaction were twice as likely to suffer from GERD.

Twelve thousand six hundred and fifty persons with GERD were questioned for new research published in Internal Medicine. Over half said stress was the primary factor that exacerbated symptoms, even while taking medication.

Why Does GERD Occur?

Acid reflux, which happens when stomach acid runs back up into the oesophagus and irritates the lining and, in some cases, causes inflammation, is the root cause of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). You could be more likely to suffer from GERD if you have any of the following conditions:

  • obesity
  • Inguinal Hernia
  • sluggish digestion
  • pregnancy

Eating big meals, reclining down during or soon after, and consuming fried or fatty foods are all terrible dietary practices that can exacerbate acid reflux. Anxiety and stress are both known to aggravate acid reflux.

Can Stress Truly Exacerbate The Problem?

Whether or not stress directly causes an increase or aggravation of stomach acid is still debatable. Many researchers now think stress makes the oesophagus susceptible to even mild acidity. Anxious and agitated individuals with acid reflux reported increased uncomfortable sensations associated with acid reflux.

Still, no rise in stomach acid was seen, according to a 1993 study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology. That is to say, participants generally complained of increased pain, but the researchers found no evidence of a rise in overall acid production.

The findings of further research conducted in 2008 lent even more credence to this theory. A study conducted on persons with GERD discovered that exposure to stressful noise worsened their symptoms by making them more reactive to acid.

An Unhealthy Lifestyle Is a Direct Result of Stress

Emotional well-being and digestive function are intricately linked. The stress of a family emergency or a new job may cause an increase in acid reflux symptoms. Workplace stress and dissatisfaction have been linked to an increased risk of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a chronic condition that can cause serious digestive problems down the road.

Researchers have shown that stress does not increase stomach acid production or regurgitation. It lowers your pain tolerance and makes your oesophagus more vulnerable to erosion caused by stomach acid. Reflux and heartburn are symptoms of stress, which can lead to overeating, alcohol consumption, smoking, and poor dietary choices.

Was It Only In Your Head?

So does it indicate you're just making up your symptoms? Not! Scientists have hypothesised that stress might trigger neurological changes that heighten pain receptors, making people more sensitive to even little elevations in stomach acid.

The stomach generally secretes prostaglandins to protect it from acid, but stress might reduce its production. You can feel even more uneasy if this happens. If you're already feeling stressed and exhausted, the physical changes you experience may worsen your acid reflux symptoms.

Those who suffer from acid reflux symptoms know that stress can cause discomfort and that it's crucial to tackle lifestyle variables, regardless of what happens in the brain and body.

What Are Your Options?

Lifelong stress can increase the likelihood of developing health problems, including heart disease, stroke, obesity, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and depression, but learning to cope with stress can help. Feeling well is directly proportional to how well you manage stress.


Tight muscles are relieved, time is spent away from the workplace, and endorphins (the body's natural feel-good chemicals) are released during physical activity. Weight loss via exercise is another way to ease abdominal stress.

Avoid allergens

Chocolate, coffee, citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, spicy meals, and fatty foods are all known to set up heartburn, so it's crucial to avoid them if you're stressed.

Sleep well

There is a symbiotic relationship between stress and sleep. Better sleep may be achieved with less stress and vice versa. Keeping your head raised as you sleep will alleviate heartburn.