Does Stress Cause Heartburn?

If you get acid reflux, also known as heartburn, you’ll probably have a fair idea how to manage it through lifestyle choices. Maybe you avoid high fat, spicy foods, cut back on alcohol or sleep a little more upright on occasion. But what if you think your heartburn is due to smoking, stress or being overweight? Quick fixes are a little more challenging in this regard. It’s more likely to take serious  willpower and perhaps a little expert advice. If that’s the case, the first step is to know your enemy. Why does smoking, stress or being overweight cause heartburn? 

Studies show that smoking not only creates the perfect environment for heartburn to develop but limits the body’s ability to defend against heartburn once it’s there. This is because it’s suggested….

  1. Smoking not only triggers stomach acid production1 but can make the acid itself more acidic2.
  2. Smoking loosens the sphincter muscle at the top of the stomach responsible for keeping acid from entering the oesophagus and burning sensitive tissue beyond3
  3. Smoking reduces the production of saliva and the acid-neutralizing bicarbonate it contains. This bicarbonate is meant to coat the lower oesophagus, helping neutralise whatever acid gets through4.

Stress and Anxiety
So here’s the thing; we’re still not 100% sure if stress and anxiety causes heartburn or if it’s the other way round. Some suggest they trigger each other in a vicious cycle5. Whatever the case, it’s believed stress not only increases acid production6 but weakens the oesophageal sphincter7. One study even suggested that people feeling stressed or anxious may simply perceive their heartburn to be worse than it actually is, the theory being that stress might cause the brain to turn up its pain receptors, increasing sensitivity to things like heartburn8. Whether pain levels are real or imagined, it would seem that if you limit stress you’re more likely to limit heartburn at the same time.

First things first - anyone can get heartburn regardless of weight, but it appears the more excess weight you carry the higher the likelihood of heartburn becoming a problem. This is because surplus fat around the belly increases pressure within the stomach. This can cause acid to rise up near the oesophagus sphincter9 and if it’s not strong enough to hold it back, you know what happens next. Another complication of a stomach under too much pressure from weight is that it finds it harder to empty itself of excess acid10.

As we said before, there’s no hard and fast cure for the above. Ideally, you remove negative lifestyle choices you think are contributing to your heartburn, some of which you might be able to achieve yourself while others might need more professional help. Alongside that, there’s also your local pharmacy. There you’ll find Losec®, a tablet treatment specifically designed to help relieve heartburn longer term. While antacids neutralise acid, Losec® targets the problem at its source, reducing the amount of acid your stomach produces. This is how Losec® is able to help relieve heartburn up to 3 months at a time11,12.

To find out where to buy Losec®Click Here.


1. Divya Jacob, Does Tobacco Increase Stomach Acid? 2. S A Müller-Lissner. Bile reflux is increased in cigarette smokers. 3. P J Kahrilas and R R Gupta. Mechanisms of acid reflux associated with cigarette smoking. 4. James F. Helm et al, Acid Neutralizing Capacity of Human Saliva.  5. Article, Medical News Today, Acid reflux and anxiety: What to know. 6. Toni Golen, Harvard Medical School, Article - Could stress be making my acid reflux worse? 7. P J Kahrilas and R R Gupta. Mechanisms of acid reflux associated with cigarette smoking. 8. Bradley et al, The relationship between stress and symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux: the influence of psychological factors. 9. Chang & Friedenberg, Obesity and GERD. 10. Zahorska-Markiewicz B, Jonderko K, Lelek A, et al. Gastric emptying and obesity. 11. When taken daily for 2 weeks. 12. Fendrick et al. (2004) Self-Selection and Use Patterns of Over-the-Counter Omeprazole for Frequent Heartburn. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology 2:17-21. Losec and MUPS are registered trade marks of the AstraZeneca group of companies. Losec is a Pharmacy Only Medicine. Each Losec tablet contains 10mg omeprazole and each Losec Extra tablet contains 20mg omeprazole. For the short-term relief of reflux-like symptoms. Losec: Take 2 tablets once daily and reduce to one tablet daily when symptoms improve. Losec Extra: Take 1 tablet daily. Not to be used if under 18 years old, in presence of alarm symptoms or if pregnant. Please refer to the label or Consumer Medicine Information for further information. Always read the label and follow the instructions. If symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional. Bayer New Zealand Limited, Auckland. DA 2043AH L.NZ.MKTG.08.2020.05408.