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.
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
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
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,
- 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
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."