Is Stress Causing Your Heartburn?

By Heide Kennedy, Arizona Farm Bureau Communications Intern

I’m sure that it is safe to say that we’ve all experienced that uncomfortable feeling of heartburn at least once in our lives. Some experience it when they’ve eaten too many acidic foods or drinks. For some, it comes after eating spicy foods. And yet others might get heartburn and not know what caused it. I used to have horrible heartburn, but mine was due to my obsession and overuse of any kind of spicy pepper, hot sauce, or acidic, vinegary sauce. Whatever the cause of your heartburn may be, researchers may have yet another cause for acid reflux or heartburn.

According to a study published in the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, a connection has been found between anxiety and heartburn. The study observed over 19,000 individuals and found that those who exhibited symptoms of heartburn were linked to being more likely to also have depression and or anxiety.

This leads to the question of whether depression and anxiety cause heartburn or vice versa. Functional nutritional therapist Ma’an Romana believes that depression and anxiety cause stress, which ultimately causes heartburn. Thus, by managing stress, heartburn can be reduced. Specifically, she says that “When we are in a state of stress, we are in what we call a fight-or-flight and our sympathetic nervous system is activated. The sympathetic nervous system actually inhibits the activities in our digestive system and as a result stomach acid production is affected.”

In order to combat stress, Romana suggests that we try to reduce stress both before and after meals. Some suggestions include taking deep breaths to calm yourself, eliminating stressful distractions from the table, focusing on enjoying your food, exercising regularly, or spending time in nature. Also, if there are known foods that cause digestive distress, eliminate them from your diet!

Nobody likes that uncomfortable burning sensation in their throat and chest. But by getting ahead of and managing your stress, you might be able to reduce the frequency or intensity of that heartburn!

For more health-related articles, check out the Fill Your Plate blog!

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