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Impact of Stress on GERD

Stress can cause many changes in the body. It can inhibit weight loss by causing the release of a hormone called cortisol, but can also cause Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), more commonly known as heartburn. The type and level of stress can result in short term acute conditions or more prolonged episodes. Yet along with the level of stress, the type of personality can also have a bearing on how stress affects the body.
Heartburn is most commonly associated with weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter that restricts stomach acids to the stomach, as well as disorders of the esophagus that may interrupt peristalsis which is the muscular motion that propels food down into the stomach.
Recent studies have attempted to define the correlation between stress and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). While past studies have determined that extensive and long term stressors are directly attributable to Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), other studies have determined that controversial topics under discussion may also have a correlation to an abnormal effect on the mechanism of the esophagus.
Certain reactive personality types were associated with a higher level of stomach acid output when confronted with stressors such as problem solving as compared to other less reactive personalities. While these studies have set out to determine the correlation between stress and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), researchers have also noted that the presence of stress in reactive individuals may produce complaints of heartburn symptoms while not actually raising the level of gastric acid exposure in the esophagus.
Further studies have indicated that continual or sustained stress had the highest direct correlation to symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) symptoms. Studies have shown that patients suffering from such mental stressors as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression or anxiety were ten to twenty percent more likely to suffer from Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) as those with the mental stress disorder.


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