Acid Reflux and Anxiety: How Are the Two Conditions Related?
Acid reflux occurs when acid from the stomach flows back into your esophagus, causing symptoms that include heartburn, difficulty swallowing, and a sour or burning taste in your throat. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic condition where acid reflux occurs multiple times a week.
Anxiety is how your body responds to stress. It’s a feeling of fear or nervousness before a major event. Severe anxiety can also be chronic and can interfere with your daily life. Anxiety can be cyclical as well because some of the most frightening symptoms of stress can cause further anxiety.
Acid reflux and anxiety may seem completely unrelated conditions, but there may be a close link between the two.
How Acid Reflux And Anxiety Could Be Related
Some physical manifestations of acid reflux and anxiety include:
Muscle tension – One of the most common symptoms of anxiety is muscle tension. Relatedly, one cause of acid reflux is pressure around your stomach muscles. If you’re experiencing stress, your muscles can lock up and cause acid to travel back up your esophagus.
Acid production – High anxiety levels may increase the production of digestive acid in your stomach. Excess acid may travel up and out of your stomach, causing heartburn.
Digestion changes – Stress sometimes causes poor digestion. If your stomach isn’t digesting food properly, it can lead to acid buildup in your stomach.
Hormonal issues – The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) controls the flow of food into the stomach. If you’re stressed, it can alter hormone production and how efficiently your body works. A mix-up in your hormones can cause the LES to stop functioning correctly.
Psychological effects – A person experiencing acid reflux can become stressed and anxious. This can trigger a self-perpetuating cycle of stress, anxiety, and heartburn because experiencing anxiety can be stressful in itself.
Acid Reflux And Anxiety: The Symptoms
The most common acid reflux symptoms are:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Chest pain
- Bad breath
Acid reflux, in general, is not dangerous in itself. It’s a prevalent digestive ailment that millions of Americans occasionally experience. Acid reflux becomes dangerous if you experience it often or if the symptoms lead you to become stressed and anxious.
Extreme acid reflux can be especially problematic if you are a person who experiences panic attacks. Chest pain and difficulty swallowing can be triggers for anxiety attacks and hyperventilation.
Acid Reflux And Anxiety: Treatments
Treating acid reflux and anxiety may require you to combine medication for both conditions. Your physician may recommend anything from antacids to protein pump inhibitors to benzodiazepines. Your treatment will depend on how severe your symptoms are.
Some home treatments for acid reflux may also reduce the potential for anxiety. Getting more exercise and avoiding eating rich, fatty foods before going to sleep can help you avoid heartburn.
If you suffer from anxiety or acid reflux, or both, it’s important to try to distinguish between your symptoms so you won’t aggravate them.
Anxiety and stress can trigger heartburn and other acid reflux-related symptoms. If you are experiencing both conditions, it’s essential to visit your physician and consult them about possible medication. Changes in your diet and exercise habits can relieve some acid reflux symptoms as well.
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