A few extra pounds could mean the difference between suffering from heartburn and heartburn relief. Stomach acid backs up into your esophagus, causing heartburn and acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), when the esophageal sphincter, the muscle found at the bottom of your esophagus, relaxes abnormally or weakens. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) works as a valve, opening to allow food and liquid to flow down into your stomach and closing to keep acid and other particles from flowing back up the esophagus. When you eat fatty foods, lie down, bend over or have excess weight, pressure on the sphincter muscle causes it to open slightly and allow acid to flow back into your esophagus.
Studies have found that patients who lose five to ten percent of their excess weight have fewer heartburn episodes. A Nurses’ Health study, analyzing 10,000 women, found that weight gain of 10 to 20 pounds increased heartburn symptoms threefold, and those who lost weight saw a 40 percent decreased risk of heartburn.
However, losing weight may not remedy all of your heartburn symptoms. If you experience burning in the throat, chest or any other heartburn symptoms frequently, you may have a more serious condition and need to see a gastroenterologist.