Skip to content

Heartburn/GERD Health Center

Even a Little Weight Gain – or Loss -- Can Affect Your Heartburn

Even a few extra pounds increases your risk of heartburn. Losing weight can bring fast relief.
Font Size
A
A
A

Weight Gain and Heartburn Risk continued...

The recent study focused on women (though Jacobson suspects findings hold true for men, too) who self-reported their weight at age 18 and then compared it to their weight when they were 52 to 77 years old.

Women with a normal BMI (under 25) at the start of the study, who then had an increase in BMI of more than 3.5 points, had a nearly three times greater risk of getting acid reflux symptoms than did those with no weight changes.

That means, for instance, if a 5-foot-4-inch woman with a starting weight of 120 pounds (a BMI of 20.6) gains 21 pounds, boosting her BMI to 24.2, she nearly triples her risk of frequent symptoms, although she is still not officially overweight.

In all, Jacobson's team evaluated 10,545 women; 22% said they had heartburn at least once a week.

"There may be more to putting on 10 pounds than just having to buy new pants," Jacobson says, hoping his study will be another motivator helping people to keep weight down.

To start losing excess weight, he says, "people sometimes need a kick in the pants or sometimes a burn in the chest."

Lose Weight, Lose the Heartburn

Another study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that weight loss and elevating the head of the bed are the most effective lifestyle interventions for reducing heartburn.

Lauren Gerson, MD, MSc, director of the Esophageal and Small Bowel Disorders Center at Stanford University School of Medicine, and her colleagues, evaluated 16 clinical trials looking at the impact of lifestyle changes on heartburn, including:

  • Losing weight.
  • Avoiding foods and drinks that trigger heartburn.
  • Changing sleeping position.
  • Avoiding late-night eating.
  • Avoiding cigarettes.

"The only thing that matters is losing weight and elevating the head of the bed," she says. While changing the other habits might improve the acid levels in the esophagus, there was not enough evidence that changing them also improved heartburn.

Gerson set out to do the study after patients referred to her complained that despite following a bland diet their heartburn symptoms didn't improve. "People were very annoyed that their diets were so limited and their heartburn [was] no better."

Today on WebMD

Woman eating pizza
How it starts, and how to stop it.
man with indigestion
Get lifestyle and diet tips.
 
woman shopping for heartburn relief
Medication options.
man with heartburn
Symptoms of both.
 
digestive health
Slideshow
Heartburn or Heart Attack
Article
 
heartburn
Article
Top 10 Heartburn Foods
Video
 
Is it Heartburn or Gerd
Video
digestive myths
Slideshow
 
Extreme Eats
Slideshow
graphic of esophageal area
Article