Obesity is a global health concern, affecting millions of people around the world. The main problem with obesity is its potential to develop various health complications. In general, obesity is defined as the accumulation of excessive fat in the body , which, over time, can compromise our overall well-being. 

Some of the complications related to obesity that can affect different parts of the body are:

  • Cardiovascular problems 
  • Respiratory problems 
  • Heartburn and acid reflux
  • Metabolic disorders (type 2 diabetes) 
  • Musculoskeletal problems (osteoarthritis)
  • Psychological problems (depression and anxiety)
  • Certain types of cancer (breast cancer, colon cancer, and endometrial cancer)

However, one should understand that every person with obesity might not have these health complications. The range of complications varies depending on the severity of obesity. 

Coming to heartburn, researchers say that obesity and heartburn are linked. It has become one of the most common obesity-related complications, affecting many obese people. Studies have also proven that gaining weight increases the risk of developing heartburn, especially belly fat, which might be one of the main causes of or worsening this condition.

Heartburn is a symptom caused by acid reflux, where stomach acid flows back into the oesophagus. The oesophagus is a pipe-like structure called the food pipe, connecting all the way to your stomach. Severe forms of heartburn and acid reflux are defined as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). There are several causes of heartburn, but more often it is caused by acid reflux, a common complication of obesity. 

The symptoms of heartburn might appear after eating and may persist for a few minutes to hours. People with heartburn might experience a feeling of burning in the chest or throat, a sour or bitter taste in the mouth, or cough sometimes. This is more commonly observed in obese women and in white people in general compared to others. The increased risk of developing heartburn, or GERD, is believed to be caused by excessive belly fat. This is because excess fat can put pressure on the stomach, leading to hiatal hernia or hormonal changes (a rise in estrogen levels), especially in obese people.

What happens if heartburn is left untreated?

Symptoms like irritation and inflammation can be observed when stomach acid flows back into the food pipe (esophagus). If this happens continuously for a long time, it can result in complications such as narrowing the esophagus, and swallowing problems. It can also lead to the development of ulcers, which can be painful, cause bleeding, and make swallowing difficult. Sometimes it may progress into Barrett’s esophagus, the primary risk factor for esophageal cancer.

The risk of these disorders increases even further with increasing weight. So the goal should be to treat uncomfortable GERD symptoms and decrease the risk of developing other serious esophageal conditions by losing weight.

How does weight loss help with heartburn?

Losing weight is the most effective way to reduce many obesity-related complications, including GERD and its symptoms. Researchers have done numerous studies and clinically proven that weight loss aids in improving heartburn and GERD. 

Study 1

According to an obesity journal published in 2012, a study on a group of overweight or obese people has shown significant improvement in GERD and related symptoms like acid reflux and heartburn. They were placed on a structured weight-loss program that included a strict dietary plan, physical activity, and lifestyle modifications that helped them lose weight.

After losing weight, most of them are relieved of GERD symptoms. Thus, it explains the relationship between weight loss and the resolution of GERD symptoms. They say the more you lose weight, the better the remission of symptoms. However, it is different for men and women, where men noticed improvements in GERD symptoms after losing 10% of their weight, whereas women observed the changes after losing 5% to 10% of their weight.

Study 2

Another recent study published in 2016 says that research was carried out on 15,295 obese people suffering from GERD symptoms like heartburn and acid reflux to analyse the effect of weight loss on those symptoms.

The researchers proved that weight loss or reduced belly fat, either through non-surgical or surgical means (bariatric surgery), can improve GERD symptoms, mostly among people with general or abdominal obesity. So the researchers figured that weight loss plays a dominant role in treating obesity related complications.

However, one can prevent or manage the symptoms of heartburn. If you experience heartburn symptoms during your sleep, overcome them by elevating the head of your bed. For more details, read: How to prevent or treat heartburn?

If you or anyone you care about are obese and experiencing heartburn (GERD) symptoms, you can reach us at +91 91777 77715 and book your appointment with Dr. Venugopal Pareek, one of the best weight loss surgeons in Hyderabad. He can help you with an effective weight loss plan.

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Disclaimer: Reading the information on this Bariatric Surgeon India website is not a substitute for any medical or bariatric surgery hospital consultation with a Bariatric or Laparoscopic Surgical specialist. The information should not be relied upon as a medical consultation. This information is not designed to replace a physician’s independent judgment about the appropriateness or risks of a procedure for a given patient. We will do our best to provide you with information that will help you make your own health care decisions. Regards Dr Venu Gopal Pareek, Best Bariatric Surgeon in Hyderabad