Do You Have to be Obese to Have Acid Reflux?

Do You Have to be Obese to Have Acid Reflux?

Do You Have to be Obese to Have Acid Reflux?

Do You Have to be Obese to Have Acid Reflux?

No, you do not have to be obese to have acid reflux. Acid reflux, also known as gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD), affects people of all shapes and sizes. However, this does not mean that there is no relationship between weight and GERD.

Learn about the symptoms of GERD and how weight does and does not affect this digestive disease.

Understanding the Symptoms of GERD

While 60 million Americans report at least one episode a month of acid indigestion, 15 million report daily bouts. A defective valve located at the end of the esophagus causes the burning sensation felt in the chest, stomach, and throat. This valve (the lower esophageal sphincter) opens briefly as an automatic response when you swallow. When the valve opens during sleep or doesn’t seal tightly after the brief opening period, digestive juices flow back into the esophagus, “burning” the lining.

Many people may not realize that severe GERD is often silent. Even if you don’t have acid reflux, you could have symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, a persistent dry cough, or respiratory problems that mimic asthma. Talk to your doctor about all of these symptoms.

How Weight Does and Does Not Affect GERD

The relationship between GERD and morbid obesity is complex and highly debated among physicians and the research community. For instance, a recent study found no significant correlation between abdominal girth or obesity and the prevalence of severe acid reflux. However, other studies suggest that people who are overweight according to the BMI scale are more than twice as likely as people of normal weight to suffer from frequent bouts of acid reflux and GERD symptoms.

Here’s why the relationship between weight and GERD gets complicated: while acid reflux is not necessarily caused by being overweight, weight gain does increase your risk of acid reflux and can worsen the symptoms of already-existing acid reflux. Meanwhile, many GERD treatment plans include losing weight in order to lessen the severity of the symptoms.

In other words, while you don’t have to be obese or even overweight to develop GERD, having a larger BMI puts you at greater risk for it.

Diagnosing and Treating Acid Reflux

A simple, non-invasive swallow test is the most definitive diagnostic tool for confirming GERD. If you have chronic acid reflux episodes, consult a physician. Dietary modifications and adjusting meal times may help reduce symptoms. Other treatment options include smoking cessation, oral medications, and in the severest cases, surgery to repair the faulty valve.

Although the exact relationship between obesity and acid reflux is debatable, maintaining a healthy weight and active lifestyle improves your overall fitness and well-being. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about chronic acid reflux – left untreated, GERD can lead to more serious health issues.

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