Weight Loss for GERD
Losing weight may provide relief from chronic heartburn, even for those who struggle with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Overweight and obese men and women struggle with acid reflux disease at a much higher prevalence rate than their healthy-weight counterparts.
In 2006, researchers from Boston University Medical Center found that putting on a few extra pounds significantly increased a person’s risk for struggling with acid reflux—even if those extra pounds still left that person in a “healthy” weight range.
What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD is caused by a faulty valve that separates the stomach from the esophagus, called the lower esophageal sphincter or LES. When the LES dysfunctions, digestive juices like acid are able to escape the stomach and enter the esophagus. This causes inflammation and irritation to the esophageal tissue.
Heartburn is the painful sensation we experience when stomach acid irritates the lining of the esophagus. Sometimes, that acid will reflux the full length of the esophagus and enter the throat.
Obesity is a leading risk factors for GERD. There are several reasons for this:
- Increased weight adds pressure to the stomach valve, making it more likely to dysfunction
- The habit of overeating, which leads to obesity, can also lead to heartburn. Eating too much may make it difficult for the LES to close properly, allowing acids to escape from the stomach.
- Fatty foods will relax the LES, potentially causing it to dysfunction. A diet rich in high-fat foods often leads to weight gain.
Treating GERD through Weight Loss
Many people with GERD experience relief from their symptoms after having weight loss surgery. Losing weight can reduce the pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which can reduce the frequency and severity of reflux. Making changes to your diet and eating small portion sizes are also associated with improved health outcomes among individuals with GERD.
Making certain lifestyle changes following Lap Band surgery may further reduce acid reflux:
- Eliminating high-sugar carbonated beverages, like soda
- Eating smaller meals
- Reducing fat and sugar intake
- Engaging in light or moderate activity
- Cutting out snacks just before bed
Chronic acid reflux can lead to several health complications. Prolonged exposure to stomach acid can cause significant damage to the esophageal tissue. When acid refluxes into the throat, it may enter the windpipe. This grants it access to the larynx and lungs, and irritation of these areas may lead to laryngitis or even pneumonia.
In addition to weight loss, other treatment methods can offer relief from GERD. In severe cases, a minimally invasive surgical procedure called fundoplication can restore proper function to the LES and prevent future reflux.