Psychological Distress Increases Acid Reflux Severity

by Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Writer

As the holidays get closer, most would agree that stress levels for some people increase. There is at least one study that indicates this psychological distress may result in more severe GERD symptoms.

Dr. Chey and his colleagues at the University of Michigan reported that about 40% of patients with GERD have psychological distress. This distress can worsen GERD symptoms. Dr. Chey believes that this effect could help explain why about 30% of GERD patients have incomplete symptom relief with Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) therapy. Instead of a lack of treatment response, Dr. Chey believes this group of people may be experiencing more severe GERD.

As consumers of any study, we have to consider the study methods and any rival explanations. In this case, each patient completed a health-related survey that assessed quality of life at the time they enrolled in the study. Overall, 39% of the GERD patients showed psychological distress. Any of you caring for or living with someone with GERD know how stressful GERD can be. So, one has to wonder how much of this distress is actually related to the GERD itself. The ol' "chicken and egg" scenario lives on.

In any case, Dr. Chey's research did demonstratedthat even though psychological distress is associated with more severe GERD symptoms, distressed patients in the study responded just as well to acid suppression therapy as those without psychological distress, but he found the group with the distress may have more residual symptoms.

Dr. Chey's study was presented at this year's annual meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology.

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D.
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Tracy Davenport, Ph.D.

Davenport is the founder of Using the latest scientific research, she helps people live their healthiest lives via one-on-one coaching, corporate talks, and sharing the more than 1,000 health-related articles she's authored.