Don’t Ignore Frequent Heartburn: It Could Be GERD

Don't Ignore Frequent HeartburnMost people experience heartburn at some point in their lives – maybe after eating a really big dinner, or eating extra-spicy foods or having a meal right before bed – but for some people, heartburn is a regular occurrence and part of their everyday lives. If that sounds like you, you could be suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.

GERD affects millions of men and women in the U.S., and research has found people who are obese are six times as likely to develop GERD as those who aren’t obese. While heartburn may seem like no more than a painful nuisance, if left untreated it can cause permanent damage to the esophagus, including inflammation, scarring, ulcers, and even esophageal cancer.

Although there was plenty of anecdotal evidence supporting a link between GERD and obesity, it wasn’t until the past decade or so that studies began to focus on the relationship between the two. What these studies found was that GERD is more closely linked with body mass index (BMI) than with obesity specifically, and unlike other conditions such as cardiovascular disease, the amount of belly fat compared to other types of body fat did not seem to have any impact.

Here’s what the studies have found:

  • About a quarter of men and women with a BMI over 30 – the limit that indicates obesity – have heartburn more than once a week.
  • pH studies of stomach acid indicate that almost 70 percent of patients with BMIs over 30 have GERD – that means seven out of 10 people who are obese also have GERD, although they may be undiagnosed.

The studies also found the association between BMI and GERD appears to be somewhat stronger among women than men, indicating that in some people, estrogen may play a role in the development of GERD.

So what are your treatment options if you do have obesity-related GERD? The solution is obvious, if not easy: You need to lose weight. Losing weight is never easy, and for many people, any weight lost on a diet is often regained fairly quickly. That’s because “quick-fix” or fad diets don’t result in lasting lifestyle changes that can help you lose weight safely and keep it off longer. In Fayetteville, NY, Dr. Wendy Scinta’s Medical weight loss programs are designed to be custom-tailored to your body and your lifestyle, so it’s much easier to make the healthy changes that result in long-term weight loss.