“I’ve been under tremendous stress lately and my acid reflux has gone out of control. Not getting much sleep either, some nights none. Is there a connection between reflux and stress/worry/fatigue?”
Studies have been done to measure the effects that stress puts on the build-up of stomach acid which in turn may cause acid reflux. In all studies I have read, there is no scientific evidence that concludes that stress will contribute to building stomach acid; however, the studies also show that if you already have acid reflux disease, then stress contributed to more intense acid reflux symptoms. In other words the studies suggest that the sensitivity to the patient’s symptoms had been heightened by stress.
This being said, most of us have had the “butterflies” before doing something that may make us nervous. Some of these “butterflies” have caused gastrointestinal abnormalities from excessive gas to your ulcer acting up. It is not unusual to have acid reflux flare-ups during this period. Chances are you already had the excessive stomach acid and with the additional stress it made it worse.
Although it may be true that stress may aggravate your heartburn symptoms, it’s doubtful to be the basic cause of your continuing heartburn. At one time, stress was thought to be the offender in an assortment of gastrointestinal problems, including ulcers and different types of bowel diseases. Today it’s recognized that bacterial infections and basic inflammation are responsible, not stress.
No matter what the trigger is for your underlying cause of your heartburn, stress is now known to make you feel the symptoms of acid reflux more intensely. There have been hundreds of studies on stress and how they affect your body, shingles is a good example, and stress is also considered to cause “hypervigilance.” In this state, stressed people become more aware and sensitive to physical symptoms which may not normally bother them if wasn’t for the stress.
Studies go on to suggest that stress may stimulate areas of the brain that make pain receptors in the esophagus more alert. The result is that the acid levels may not rise in those that are stressed, but each drop of acid may become much more painful.
The bottom line is that stress may not cause your heartburn but if you already have heartburn the stress may cause it to intensify. Learn to manage your acid reflux. There are several good articles in this website that can help you learn the causes and treatment of acid reflux. Knowledge is power and if you have acid reflux disease the only way to manage it is through a lifestyle change or surgery. Medication has become a dangerous option.
1Video – Digestion and Stress – as cause of acid reflux disease