Can Anxiety Cause Acid Reflux?

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Acid reflux is very uncomfortable, but it you only suffer from it every now and again, it’s probably nothing too serious. However, there are many people out there who suffer from acid reflux on a regular basis. This can be very uncomfortable and painful, and at the end of the day, even debilitating too.

Now, what is interesting to discuss is if there is a link between anxiety and acid reflux, mainly if anxiety can cause or worsen the symptoms. So, can anxiety cause acid reflux?

Does Anxiety Cause Acid Reflux?

Let us start out by saying that there is no absolute proof that anxiety does in fact cause acid reflux, yet, that said, there does seem to be somewhat of a correlation. Some really interesting studies show that people who suffer from acid reflux report that even when on medication, stress and anxiety seem to play a role in worsening the symptoms and perceived effects.

People with increased stress and anxiety, lower job satisfaction, and even depression seem to be more likely to suffer from acid reflux, or at least the worsening of the symptoms.

However, with all of that said, scientists have not found any actual empirical evidence that anxiety directly causes or worsens acid reflux symptoms. People with anxiety do report a worsening of symptoms, but the proof is not exactly solid.

Is There a Correlation? 

Although the evidence is not exactly solid, there does seem to be a link between the two, and it may be due to a variety of reasons.

It is thought that people with anxiety have brains that work slightly differently, or in other words, anxiety can increase the sensitivity of pain receptors in the brain, thus making it feel like the acid reflux is worse than it actually is.

It is also thought that stress and anxiety can reduce the production of prostaglandins, which is a substance that protects the stomach from stomach acid. This could also cause an increased perception of pain and of the severity of acid reflux symptoms.

Another factor here may be that anxiety causes people to act differently. In other words, anxiety may cause people to sleep less, drink more alcohol, smoke tobacco, and exercise less, all of which may lead to increased instances of acid reflux.

There are also some theories that people who suffer from anxiety also suffer from increased muscle tension, increased stomach acid production, and slow digestion, all of which can in theory contribute to worsening symptoms.

The bottom line here is that anxiety may very well worsen acid reflux symptoms and may even cause them. However, for the most part, the links seem to be indirect, and direct links are at this time not proven 100% .

Can Anxiety Cause Acid Reflux?

How to Reduce Anxiety and Avoid Acid Reflux

Seeing as there is some pretty strong evidence that anxiety may cause or worsen acid reflux, it’s probably a good idea for you to know how to reduce stress and avoid acid reflux.

A great way to reduce anxiety is to exercise. Exercise creates and releases various chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine, both of which are proven to lessen anxiety, stress, and depression.

People with anxiety often have poor sleeping habits or just do not sleep well, and therefore, a good way to lessen anxiety is by trying to sleep more.

While everything up until this point is true, the fact of the matter is that people are like snowflakes, in that no two are alike. What might work for others to reduce anxiety may not work for you. Therefore, you need to find your own way to deal with it. This could include going for walks in a quiet forest, drinking a hot tea, taking a bubble bath, punching a bag at the gym, or anything else. This is kind of a trial and error type of thing, so don’t give up.

One big thing you can do here is to simply learn to say no. Stress is often caused by people’s needs to make others happy, and therefore do things they would otherwise not do. In other words, say no, put yourself first, and ensure that your own mental health is taken care of before you start worrying about others.

In terms of what directly affects acid reflux, you will want to avoid tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, very acidic foods, and anything else known to cause acid reflux symptoms to appear or become worse.


The bottom line is that there is some pretty strong evidence that anxiety can cause or at least worsen acid reflux symptoms, although the proof is not 100% solid. That said, if you feel anxious and stressed out, and you have acid reflux, follow the tips outlined above and you may notice a difference.