Perimenopause Can Bring Onset of GERD

by Dorian Martin Patient Advocate

Approaching menopause provides all kinds of new experiences - like figuring out that you may be experiencing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). I got my wake-up call (literally) when I would started coughing and choking in the middle of the night.

So what causes this reaction? Menter noted that the lower escophageal sphincter loses its ability to keep the stomach contents in place right. This often happens right as women reach perimenopause or menopause. When the sphincter relaxes at the wrong time, digestive acid backs up into the esophagus.

So how can you prevent GERD from messing with your beauty sleep? One way is to look at your diet. I recently wrote a sharepost for HealthCentral's diet and fitness site about what foods you should consider removing from your diet in order to avoid acid reflux. For instance, I've learned that by eliminating fried foods from my diet, I can eliminate a lot of the acid reflux that I was suffering.

So what happens if changing your diet doesn't totally do the trick? I'm not much on popping pills (whether they're prescription or over the counter), but that's always an option although I suggest that you talk to your doctor. But before you get to that point, you may want to consider the following that were suggested by Menter:

Sleep with your head raise on a wedge pillow. Menter said this was the most effective approach that she found to limit GERD in her own case.

Limit your stress level, which causes stomach acids to pump.

Consider eating probiotics and lemon balm, which can help soothe your stomach.

Avoiding the weight gain that seems to come at middle age also can prove effective in staving off GERD. In another More article entitled, "Midlife Weight Gain: What's Healthy, What's Not?", Joan Raymond reported that obese women are more prone to have GERD, although scientists have linked this condition to just being overweight. "A study of more than 10,000 women reported in The New England Journal of Medicine found that relatively small weight gains increased the risk: Among women with a baseline BMI of 25 or less, GERD in-creased 1.13 times if their BMI increased by just 0.5 to 1.5 units," the More article reported. "For women who increased their BMI by 3.5 units, say from 24 to 27.5, their likelihood of having more frequent GERD symptoms grew nearly three times."

Menter also noted that acid reflux can be a sign that it's time to reevaluate one's life. "I realized I'd been approaching my reflux problem from the wrong direction," she wrote. "I'd viewed it as a medical condition requiring a pharmaceutical solution, when actually it's a clear, brilliant stress barometer, a sign that your body wants you to slow down and simplify, or maybe just pay attention."

GERD is definitely uncomfortable. By making some key lifestyle changes in diet, lifestyle, and approach to life, women who are in perimenopause or menopause can declaw the impact of acid reflux.

Dorian Martin
Meet Our Writer
Dorian Martin

Dorian Martin writes about various topics for HealthCentral, including Alzheimer’s disease, diet/exercise, menopause and lung cancer. Dorian is a health and caregiving advocate living in College Station, TX. She has a Ph.D. in educational human resource development. Dorian also founded I Start Wondering, which encourages people to embrace a life-long learning approach to aging. She teaches Sheng Zhen Gong, a form of Qigong. Follow Dorian on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram at @doriannmartin.