Obesity and Heartburn: What You Should Know about the Link

Obesity and heartburn are two common health problems that affect millions of people around the world. But did you know that they are also related?

In this article, we will explain how obesity can cause or worsen heartburn, what are the symptoms and risks of heartburn, and how you can prevent or treat it.

What is Heartburn?

Heartburn is a burning sensation in your chest or throat that occurs when stomach acid flows back into your oesophagus, the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach.

This can happen when the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES), a ring of muscle that acts as a valve between the oesophagus and the stomach, becomes weak or relaxed and fails to close properly.

Heartburn is also known as acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It is not a life-threatening condition, but it can be very uncomfortable and interfere with your daily activities.

Some of the common symptoms of heartburn include:

  • A sour or bitter taste in your mouth
  • A feeling of food stuck in your throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing, wheezing, or hoarseness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Bad breath

How Does Obesity Cause or Worsen Heartburn?

Obesity is a condition where you have excess body fat that can harm your health. Obesity can increase your risk of developing various diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.

Obesity can also affect your digestive system and cause or worsen heartburn.

There are several ways that obesity can contribute to heartburn, such as:

¡》Increasing the pressure on your abdomen.

When you are overweight or obese, you have more fat tissue in your abdomen that can push against your stomach and force the acid up into your oesophagus.

This can also happen when you eat too much, wear tight clothes, or lie down after a meal.

¡》Weakening the LES.

Obesity can cause inflammation and hormonal changes that can affect the function of the LES and make it more likely to open when it should not.

This can allow the acid to escape from your stomach and irritate your oesophagus.

¡¡¡》Increasing the production of acid.

Obesity can also affect the amount and type of acid that your stomach produces. Some studies have shown that obese people have higher levels of gastrin, a hormone that stimulates the secretion of acid, and lower levels of somatostatin, a hormone that inhibits the secretion of acid.

This can result in more acid in your stomach that can reflux into your oesophagus.

What are the Risks of Heartburn?

Heartburn can have a negative impact on your quality of life and your overall health. If you experience frequent or severe heartburn, you may be at risk of developing complications, such as:

  • Esophagitis.

This is inflammation and damage to the lining of your oesophagus caused by the acid. This can cause bleeding, ulcers, or narrowing of the esophagus that can make it hard to swallow.

  • Barrett’s oesophagus.

This is a condition where the cells in the lower part of your oesophagus change into a different type that is more resistant to acid. However, this can also increase your risk of developing esophageal cancer, a rare but serious type of cancer that can be fatal.

  • Asthma.

This is a chronic lung disease that causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways, making it hard to breathe. Some studies have suggested that acid reflux can trigger or worsen asthma symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath.

  • Dental problems.

Acid reflux can also damage your teeth and gums by eroding the enamel and causing cavities, sensitivity, or infections.

How Can You Prevent or Treat Heartburn?

The good news is that heartburn can be prevented or treated with some simple lifestyle changes and medications. Here are some tips that can help you reduce or avoid heartburn:

1. Lose weight.

Losing weight can reduce the pressure on your abdomen and improve the function of your LES. This can lower your chances of having acid reflux and improve your overall health.

You can lose weight by following a balanced diet that is low in fat, sugar, and calories, and by exercising regularly.

2. Avoid trigger foods.

Some foods can worsen heartburn by relaxing the LES or increasing the production of acid.

These include spicy, acidic, fatty, or fried foods, chocolate, coffee, alcohol, mint, garlic, onion, and tomato. You should also avoid eating large or late meals, and wait at least three hours before lying down after eating.

3. Elevate your head.

When you sleep, you can elevate your head and upper body by using extra pillows or a wedge-shaped cushion. This can prevent the acid from flowing back into your oesophagus and causing heartburn at night.

4. Quit smoking.

Smoking can weaken the LES and increase the production of acid. It can also damage the lining of your oesophagus and increase your risk of oesophageal cancer.

Quitting smoking can help you prevent or reduce heartburn and improve your overall health.

5. Take medications.

If lifestyle changes are not enough to control your heartburn, you can also take over-the-counter or prescription medications that can help you.

These include antacids, which neutralize the acid in your stomach, H2 blockers, which reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces, and proton pump inhibitors, which block the production of acid and heal the damage to your oesophagus.

However, you should always consult your doctor before taking any medications and follow the instructions carefully.


Obesity and heartburn are two common and related health problems that can affect your well-being and your quality of life.

By understanding the causes and risks of heartburn, and by making some lifestyle changes and taking medications if needed, you can prevent or treat heartburn and enjoy a healthier and happier life.


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