How Can Stress Cause Heartburn?

Can Stress Cause Heartburn

Most people ask; can stress cause heartburn? Stress can magnify the symptoms of acid reflux. Stress has not been associated with an increase in acid production in the stomach, but it can lead to heartburn. Research has established a close link between heartburn and stress. Indigestion is a leading cause of heartburn. Let us look at some ways in which stress can cause heartburn.

By activating the sympathetic nervous system

The nervous system has two branches, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic system. When you are relaxed, the parasympathetic nervous system also referred to as the “rest and digest” system is predominant. This branch of the nervous system supports functions such as the immunity, digestion and the reproductive system.

Fight and Flight

On the other hand, the sympathetic nervous system controls the “fight and flight” functions. It supports the functions of the skeletal muscles, heart and the lungs. When one is stressed, the sympathetic nervous system is most active. This suggests that digestive functions are less coordinated. In times of stress, heartburn can result if the lower esophageal sphincter is not functioning optimally. Besides stomach contents can get back to the esophagus due to increased pressure in the stomach.

Lack of sleep

Sleep is part and parcel of a healthy lifestyle. Stress can result in poor sleeping patterns. An individual under stress cannot get adequate and uninterrupted sleep. Adequate sleep is essential for repair and regeneration of body cells and organs. Lack of sufficient sleep may affect the functioning of the lower esophageal sphincter, indigestion, and acid production in the stomach leading to heartburn. It may also lead to increased sensitivity to pain impulses.

Poor diet

A stressed individual is more likely to make poor choices on what they eat. As we all know, certain foods can aggravate heartburn and the production of acid in the stomach. Foods high in fats, sugary and processed foods increase the risk of heartburn. Such foods can lead to overproduction of stomach acid, indigestion, and heartburn. One can use diet alleviate the symptoms of acid reflux.


Most people result in sleeping/resting in the bed or sofa when they are stressed. Body movements help contract stomach muscles and easing pressure in the stomach. One way of eliminating stress and heartburn is regular exercise. If you are in the office stand and walk around, exercise promotes digestion besides adding to eliminating heartburn. Sitting for long hours may trigger heartburn. Body posture is critical in easing heartburn.

Can stress cause heartburn?

We have established several ways in which stress can lead to heartburn. Heartburn is a strange feeling that can ruin your day and affect your mood. If you experience heartburn often, seek ways of relaxing like yoga and exercising to shift your mind away from the ‘stressors’. You can also try using stress relief remedies if the cause is indigestion. When your body and mind are relaxed, then heartburn is less pronounced. Avoiding foods that trigger acid production and heartburn are critical in reducing heartburn.


The information we offer at is for educational purposes; it does not replace conventional medical advice. We do not provide medical advice, diagnose or prescribe medication for heartburn. Visit your doctor if you have a severe health condition.