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The Relationship Between Obesity and GERD

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While many of the health consequences of obesity are well understood, the relationship between gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and obesity is not as widely documented.

GERD is more common in overweight individuals and more than two-thirds of all U.S. adults qualify as overweight or obese. As a result, the prevalence of GERD and opportunity for correcting it makes examining the relationship between these two conditions more closely beneficial.

What Is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a condition in which stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing injury to the esophagus due to excessive exposure to stomach acid.

There are several conditions that make some people more susceptible to GERD than others. With obesity leading the way among risk factors, others include:

  • Asthma
  • Connective tissue disorders
  • Delayed stomach emptying
  • Diabetes
  • Dry mouth
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking

People experience GERD differently, although heartburn is the most commonly experienced symptom of the condition. Heartburn feels like a sharp burning in the chest, behind the breastbone, that moves up into the throat.

Why Is Obesity so Closely Related to GERD?

Studies reveal that higher body mass indexes (BMIs) are associated with increased frequencies of reflux symptoms from GERD. More specifically, people who have a BMI greater than 30 are 15 percent more likely to experience heartburn more than one time a week than those who have a BMI that’s less than 25. Additionally, nearly 70 percent of all people who have a BMI greater than 30 also proved positive for GERD, according to a recent study.

Reducing Your Risks of GERD

GERD is a painful condition to live with and can cause lasting damage to your esophagus if left unchecked. Prevention is the best cure, but there are other things you can do to help reduce your risks.

One way to reduce the symptoms of GERD is to lose weight, but most people find that difficult to do without some kind of medical intervention, such as weight loss surgery, to assist in their efforts.

Quit smoking. It sounds simple until you try it, but doing so will definitely improve your health, including the frequency of GERD.  Medications can prove beneficial in assisting people control nicotine cravings and stop smoking.  If you want to beat this habit, consulting your primary care doctor should be your first stop.

The bottom line is that losing weight can go a long way toward improving your overall health, including GERD. Weight loss surgery, such as lap band surgery is one option that’s available to you — and one well worth considering.