Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Weight Loss & Diet Plans

Font Size

Losing Weight May Ease Chronic Heartburn

Study found shedding pounds reduced GERD symptoms among overweight, obese patients

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Kathleen Doheny

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, May 20 (HealthDay News) -- Obese and overweight men and women who suffer from heartburn often report relief when they lose weight, a new study shows.

The researchers tracked the effects of weight loss over a year in patients who had a persistent form of heartburn known as gastroesophageal reflux, or GERD.

"If you lose weight, you will have improvements in your reflux symptoms," said study author Dr. Preetika Sinh, a gastroenterology fellow at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. In women, but not men, long-term exercise also helped reduce symptoms, she added.

Sinh was scheduled to present the findings Monday at the Digestive Disease Week annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

Previous research also has linked weight loss with a decline in GERD symptoms.

Heartburn, or acid indigestion, is very common, with more than 60 million Americans having it at least once a month, according to the American College of Gastroenterology. Stomach acid flows backward up into the esophagus, and the burn begins.

GERD, the more frequent, chronic form of heartburn, can lead to complications if left untreated, including a narrowing of the esophagus or precancerous changes in the esophageal lining.

Sinh evaluated more than 200 men and women with an average age of 46. At the start of the study, all were overweight or obese, with an average weight of 220 pounds.

At the beginning of the study, 38 percent had heartburn scores severe enough to be classified as GERD. After six months, the patients' average weight decreased to 183 pounds, and only 16 percent still had GERD.

During the next six months, 172 of the patients regained weight, and the percentage of those with heartburn increased again, from 16 percent to 22 percent. Even a small amount of weight gain -- less than 5 percent of their initial weight -- led to worsening symptoms, Sinh found.

Sinh then focused on the 41 patients who didn't regain their weight and found that the percentage with heartburn continued to decline and the symptoms continued to improve.

As part of the weight-loss program, the patients were told to aim for five hours a week of moderate activity such as walking or jogging. The average amount logged was a little less than four hours, Sinh said.

In women, but not men, the exercise also helped to improve heartburn.

Sinh said she can't explain the mechanisms behind either the weight loss or the exercise, or why the exercise seemed to help only women. Although the study found a link between weight loss, exercise and GERD, it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

While the use of heartburn medications is common, Sinh said she can't say if the men and women improved enough to go off medication, since she didn't track those results. Only about 5 percent of the men and women were on heartburn medications in the first place, she said.

Today on WebMD

vegetables
Video
Woman trying clothes / dress
Assessment
 
Woman looking at reflection in mirror
Article
Hot cup of coffee
Quiz
 
woman shopping fresh produce
Video
butter curl on knife
Quiz
 
eating out healthy
Article
Smiling woman, red hair
Article
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply
thumbnail_woman_tossing_spinach
Video
lunchbox
Article
 
What Girls Need To Know About Eating Disorders
Article
teen squeezing into jeans
fitfor Teens
 

Special Sections