Stress and Acid Reflux

We’ve all experienced those ‘fluttery butterfly’ or ‘tight knot’ feelings in our stomach during times of stress.

Whether it’s before a big life event you’re looking forward to or dreading, a crucial working meeting, exams or just life tending to be hectic at times, our stomach can feel tight, ‘bubbly’, uneasy or we can be so nervous we feel sick. That’s because anxiety or worry caused by stressful or emotional events can upset the delicate balance of digestion.1

Nervous young man hands

Can stress cause acid reflux?

The gut is intimately connected to the brain and is sensitive to emotion – stress, anxiety, excitement, anger – which can all trigger responsive symptoms.2

For some, stress slows digestion down and for others it speeds it up which can cause a range of gut issues.1 From constipation to the opposite end of the scale when you find yourself dashing to the loo1, indigestion, loss of appetite, increased appetite, stomach cramps and nausea can all be knock-on effects of the stressful emotions we’re feeling.3

What is acid reflux?

Acid reflux is a symptom of indigestion and the root cause of heartburn which is a burning feeling in the chest as stomach acid travels towards the throat.

If stress has impacted your digestion, you might find your heartburn is worse or more frequent during these times.

Woman stressed

The connection between acid reflux and stress – can stress trigger acid reflux?

Some experts believe a stress-induced nervous system response can increase the amount of acid in your stomach.4

It’s also thought anxiety may reduce pressure in the muscular band (the lower oesophageal sphincter) which prevents stomach contents and acid from entering the oesophagus – the food tube which links the mouth to the stomach.5

On the whole ongoing stress and anxiety is not good for the digestive system and can make existing conditions such as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) – which is regular, reoccurring acid reflux – peptic ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome worse.4

Equally, frequent episodes of acid reflux and heartburn can also be a major source of stress and worry for sufferers if it regularly impacts day-to-day life leading to a vicious circle of anxiety.

If you think you’re suffering from stress-related acid reflux – or any of the stress-linked digestive issues – lifestyle changes can make a real difference.

Alongside cutting down or avoiding heartburn and acid reflux dietary triggers such as alcohol, coffee, fatty or spicy foods, tomatoes, citrus fruits and chocolate, try to find ways to help you relax and cope better with the stressful situations life can throw our way.

How can I stop or reduce acid reflux from stress?

Exercise – it isn’t a magic wand but being active and getting out for a walk, jog, bike ride or going for a swim can help to clear your thoughts and reduce emotional intensity. It also releases chemicals which can help lift your mood.6

Share your worries or concerns with friends and family, do activities together and have fun together – laughter is a great stress reliever.6

Make some time for yourself to do the things you enjoy. Shut the laptop, switch off the phone and leave the worries behind to focus on what makes you happy. It’s called self-care and means your looking after your needs instead of everyone else’s.6

Take control of the situations that are stressing you out – adopt some time management techniques, there’s some great tips7 here.

Try yoga, meditation or some calming breathing exercises, designed to relieve stress, anxiety and panic attacks.7

These lifestyle changes should start to have an impact if you give them time.

Two woman practising yoga

woman drinking water

How to prevent acid reflux & heartburn symptoms

Other ways to reduce or prevent acid reflux and heartburn symptoms from occurring include losing excessive weight, stopping smoking – which can weaken the lower oesophageal sphincter allowing stomach acid to travel up towards the throat – and eating properly to aid digestion.

Busy lives mean we tend to gulp down food at work or when we’re dashing about and then grab a takeaway at teatime – our guts don’t thank us for that!

Try to take time eating your food, don’t eat too much – four or five smaller portions are better than three large meals – eat regularly and at meal times and avoiding eating two to three hours before bed.

Last but not least, drink plenty of water.

Speaking to a GP & omeprazole over the counter

If lifestyle changes and medicines such as antacids aren’t helping – and you have heartburn most days for three weeks or more – speak to your GP who can provide stronger over the counter treatments such as omeprazole.8

Available to buy in pharmacies, Pyrocalm Control 20mg Gastro-Resistant Tablets contain omeprazole which is a widely used treatment for the symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux and works to reduce the amount of acid your stomach makes.9

Learn more about Pyrocalm Control & Omeprazole

Pyrocalm Control 20mg Gastro-Resistant Tablets (omeprazole) are used in adults for the short-term treatment of reflux symptoms (e.g. heartburn, acid regurgitation, acid reflux). Always read the label.

Find out more about Pyrocalm Control.

Learn more about omeprazole and how it works.

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Pyrocalm Control® 20mg Gastro-Resistant Tablets. For the short-term treatment of reflux symptoms in adults.
Contains 20 mg Omeprazole. Always read the label. Medicines can affect the unborn baby.
Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medicine in pregnancy.