Stress a major trigger for heartburn

Reducing stress can reduce occurrence
  • Deborah Condon

Stress is a major trigger of heartburn among Irish adults, a new survey has found.

Over one-third of adults in Ireland are affected by heartburn, which occurs when gastric acid passes from the stomach back up into the oesophagus (gullet) because the lower oesophageal sphincter has not closed tightly enough.

One of the main irritants in gastric acid is hydrochloric acid, which is a strong acid. The stomach has a special lining that prevents this acid from damaging it but the gullet has no such lining. Therefore when the gastric acid flows back into the oesophagus, the lining of it becomes inflamed due to the burning effect of the hydrochloric acid.

Typical symptoms of heartburn include a burning feeling in the chest and throat, an unpleasant acidic taste in the mouth, feeling sick and bad breath.

The survey of 1,000 adults revealed that among those who experience heartburn, 59% feel that their symptoms are directly linked to stress.

"To help protect against heartburn, sufferers need to learn to manage stress levels and be mindful of what and how they eat during stressful times in their lives. Reducing stress levels can help protect and reduce the occurrence of heartburn," commented stress management expert, Sarah Doyle.

The survey also found that 30% of people with heartburn suffer symptoms every day or at least twice a week.

The results were released to coincide with the launch of Heartburn Awareness Week, which will run from October 8-14. This event aims to encourage people who are affected by heartburn to visit their GP or pharmacy and get expert advice on how to treat and control the condition.

As stress is a major trigger, Ms Doyle encouraged people to learn how to relax and get enough good quality sleep.

"When feeling stressed or under pressure, breathing is something that can be affected and creates even more tension. Deep or rhythmic breathing is an effective way to promote a feeling of calm when feeling a little under pressure. If you are up against a deadline at work and feeling overwhelmed, take a few deep breaths to help manage your anxiety," she suggested.

She also encouraged people to plan ahead if they know a stressful period is coming up, and to eat a healthy diet. People should not skip meals or eat at their desks. Finally, everyone should exercise regularly. Even a 20-minute walk at lunchtime can make a difference, Ms Doyle noted.

The survey was carried out in August 2018 by iReach Insights. Heartburn Awareness Week is supported by Nexium Control.


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