05 Jun Revenge on Reflux -Addressing psychological and lifestyle factors
Do you experience a pain or burning in your throat after eating? Do you experience heartburn? If so, you might have Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This occurs when a muscle at the end of your esophagus does not close properly. Some of the standard recommendations are helpful to alleviate these symptoms. Here are a few:
- Avoiding alcohol and spicy, fatty, or acidic foods that trigger heartburn. Tomatoes or chocolate might fall in this category.
- Eating smaller meals
- Not eating close to bedtime
- Losing weight if needed
For other people though (about 40%), traditional medical treatments don’t help and symptoms can at times be quite debilitating. There are also other factors that play a role in creating a vicious cycle for GERD. For example, most people with heartburn have sleep problems. A Gallup survey showed that 79% of people with weekly heartburn have nighttime symptoms. The relationship between insomnia and GERD, however, is not well understood. A group of researchers at the University of Michigan will be exploring the effect of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia on GERD symptoms. Psychological factors (e.g. stress) can exacerbate these symptoms. Preliminary studies explore the use of interventions such as diaphragmatic breathing and esophageal hypnotherapy for functional heartburn. Esophageal directed hypnotherapy has been used for refractory symptoms in functional gastrointestinal disorders. According to Riehl et al 2015, hypnotherapy produced improvements in heartburn symptoms, anxiety, and quality of life.
In summary, GERD and heartburn are just a couple more examples of medical disorders with significant lifestyle and psychological influences. Addressing these other factors, beyond medication, may be of benefit.