Does Being Overweight Cause Heartburn?
Being overweight does not necessarily lead to heartburn - but it can increase the risk of painful burning in the oesophagus. Overweight people, especially in the stomach area, are particularly at risk. But what causes it? And how can losing weight help? Find the answers here.
Article: Heartburn: Overweight as a risk factor
- Link: Heartburn and obesity
- Causes in a nutshell
- Risk of heartburn in overweight
- Quick help for heartburn
FAQ about heartburn caused by obesity
How are obesity and heartburn related?
Obesity promotes heartburn because excess weight puts pressure on the stomach, making it easier for stomach acid to return to the esophagus. In addition, obesity and heartburn are often equally aided by an unhealthy diet (i.e. a diet high in fat and sugar).
How do you know your risk of heartburn from being overweight?
In general, the more overweight you are, the higher your risk of heartburn. The body mass index (BMI), which is the ratio of body weight to height, can provide further guidance. However, only a GP or nutritionist can give you an accurate and expert assessment.
What can help with heartburn caused by excess weight
Changing your diet and losing weight can help against heartburn caused by being overweight. Exercise and sport can help, as can (professionally guided) dietary modification - in combination with keeping a diet diary.
The link between overweight and heartburn
Overweight can cause heartburn due to excess weight pressing on the stomach. This then puts pressure on the sphincter muscle between the stomach and the oesophagus, called the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES). The sphincter eventually gives in to the pressure and the stomach contents, including acid, return to the oesophagus - causing heartburn.
For this reason, people whose excess weight is concentrated in the abdomen are more at risk of heartburn than people who have a few extra kilos on their hips, for example.
Pressure on the sphincter can be caused not only by being overweight, but also by tight-fitting clothing that presses on the abdomen or narrows the abdominal cavity. Therefore, look for well-fitting skirts and trousers that do not restrict you. You should also not tighten your belt too much - or preferably not at all.
Eating as a common cause of heartburn and obesity
In general, the higher the number of excess kilograms, the greater the risk of heartburn. However, obesity is rarely the only trigger for problems associated with acidity.
Rather, there is a common feature between overweight problems and reflux disease. Both can sometimes be attributed to the same factor: a wrong way of eating.
Everyone is surely aware that unhealthy and large meals, especially fatty foods, but also sweets such as chocolate, manifest themselves primarily in weight gain. At the same time, however, they are also considered typical triggers of heartburn - with or without existing overweight. It may even be the case that heartburn is primarily caused by diet and not overweight.
What are the typical causes of overweight?
Today we know that being overweight is a risk factor for heartburn. But how do the extra pounds come about in the first place? There are a number of causes. Most of the time, however, the following factors play a role in addition to poor diet:
- lack of physical activity
- metabolic diseases such as hypothyroidism
- genetic predispositions
- psychological factors such as depressed moods
- eating disorders
To help fight obesity, it is important to work with your doctor to find out exactly what has caused you to be overweight.
How high is the individual risk of heartburn due to being overweight?
In general, the more overweight you are, the higher your risk of heartburn. The body mass index (BMI) is used to assess how overweight you are. This is a value that indicates the ratio of body weight to height.
This is how BMI is calculated:
Body weight (in kilograms) divided by height (in square metres). Below is an example for a man weighing 75 kilograms and standing 1.65 metres tall:
75 / (1.65)2 or (1.65 x 1.65), which corresponds to a BMI of approximately 27.5.
The BMI for overweight differs slightly between men and women. The following guidelines are as follows:
- Normal weight is a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9.
- People with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 are overweight.
- Severe overweight starts at a BMI of 30.
However, the body mass index has its weaknesses. For example, it does not take into account that athletes have a lot of muscle mass and muscle is heavier than fat - so athletes often have a high BMI but are not overweight in the sense of having excessive body fat. BMI is also irrelevant for children as they are still in the growth phase.
But if you suffer from heartburn frequently, your BMI can give you a clue as to whether obesity may be the cause.
What helps with heartburn caused by being overweight?
Being overweight is one of the risk factors for heartburn that sufferers can control themselves. Reducing weight can significantly reduce the pressure on the stomach and sphincter muscles.
A combination of exercise and diet change is considered promising. But how does weight loss actually work? And when do we gain weight?
Every body needs a certain amount of energy to function. It gets this energy from food in the form of calories. How many calories we need each day varies from person to person.
Ultimately, it depends on how much muscle mass is in the body and whether you exercise regularly. Calorie consumption can therefore be influenced by exercise.
If you eat more calories than you consume, the excess is stored as fat. Conversely, fat stores are used when the body gets less energy from food than it needs.
Tips against overweight and heartburn
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that heartburn will ease after losing excess weight. However, weight reduction often improves well-being and fitness. If you want to lose weight, try these measures:
- Keep a food diary.
- A small bar of chocolate here, a tasty snack there - many people don't realise how much they eat during the day. Calories add up quickly. A food diary will help you keep track of your eating. If this seems too time-consuming, you should at least consider writing down snacks and snacks between meals.
- Avoid crash diets.
- Everyone knows the tempting ads that say, "Losing five pounds in fourteen days is as easy as child's play." Unfortunately, such diets rarely deliver what they promise. What's more, the body mainly loses water, not fat - so the lost pounds are quickly put back on. In the long run, it is healthier and more effective to lose weight slowly. A good guideline is about half a kilo a week.
- Create a diet plan.
- Obesity often doesn't happen overnight, but is the result of a long period of poor eating. It is quite clear that these habits cannot be reversed in a few days and many people - despite good intentions - fall back into their old pattern. To avoid this, it makes sense to have a diet plan in which meals are roughly planned for the whole week.
Although even this advice does not guarantee that the pounds will fall off and the heartburn will disappear: losing weight is worthwhile in any case. By losing excess weight, you are counteracting secondary diseases such as type II diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
Tips against acute heartburn
Weight loss against heartburn is a good solution. However, it usually takes some time for the first successes to show. For acute heartburn, you can try home remedies such as chewing gum (mastic) or drinking a glass of water. In addition, medicines that neutralise excess stomach acid can sometimes bring relief.