To Fight Acid Reflux, Lose the Fat

by Jennifer Mitchell Wilson B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

For many chronic diseases, obesity often turns out to be a leading culprit. The condition has long been linked to the development of many diseases such as cancer, heart disease and various gastrointestinal ailments, to name a few. Unfortunately, the obesity problem has reached epidemic proportions and the statistics are scary.

About a third of adults and 17 percent of children are considered obese in the United States. (This amounts to 78 million adults and 12 million children!) It isn’t hard to see then how tackling this problem would go a long way toward preventing or reducing many of our current health ailments.

Not all excess weight is created equalIf there’s one type of fat we should target, it’s belly fat. As one of the most dangerous forms of fat to carry on your body, belly fat has been linked to a host of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. In fact, carrying excess visceral fat significantly increases a person’s overall risk of dying prematurely even when the person has a normal BMI. And according to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, excess weight is a risk factor for the development of acid reflux disease, since abdominal fat often puts undo pressure on the stomach, possibly causing symptoms.

The importance of waist-to-hip ratioThose with acid reflux disease should definitely look into whether abdominal fat could be causing their reflux symptoms to worsen. An easy way to determine if your belly fat is too high is to measure your waist and your waist-to-hip ratio. Waist-to-hip ratio is calculated by dividing your waist circumference by your hip circumference. Note that healthy waist measurements should fall below 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men and that a healthy waist-to-hip ratio numbers for women should fall at 0.8 or lower and at 0.95 or lower for men.



Credit: Thinkstock

To lose the weight, some old fashioned advice

Reducing abdominal fat essentially comes down to two factors: diet and exercise. It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. And sadly, there’s aren’t any surgical or liposuction techniques that can remove fat that surrounds the organs. It has to be done the old fashioned way.

Exercise also plays a crucial role in reducing overall weight, along with stubborn abdominal fat. About 30 minutes of moderately-intense activity is the minimum required to lose the weight and keep it off. Or better yet, aim for 60 minutes a day. Adding weight training can also help by building muscle and in turn boost the body’s metabolism.

If you haven’t exercised in a while, work your way up to it slowly and be sure to get your physician’s approval before beginning an exercise program. This is especially important if you have any injuries or additional health issues.

It’s how you eat, however, that makes the biggest difference. Diet, as most people have heard, is responsible for 80 percent of weight loss success. If you don’t have healthy dietary habits, you will not see the kind of results you may want as well as undo all the hard work you put in at the gym. A good diet means eating plenty of whole foods consisting of lean protein, healthy fats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables while cutting out excess sugar from things like soda. Be sure to stay adequately hydrated by drinking plenty of water as it can help with cravings and help you achieve peak performance at the gym.

While belly fat is definitely a pain, it can be an even bigger one if you have acid reflux. For these folks, being healthy may require even more effort, so talk with your physician about getting a referral to a dietitian. Hopefully, banishing the belly will also help you banish the burn.

Jennifer has a bachelor's degree in dietetics as well as graduate work in public health and nutrition. She has worked with families dealing with digestive disease, asthma and food allergies for the past 12 years. Jennifer also serves the Board of Directors for Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER).

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson
Meet Our Writer
Jennifer Mitchell Wilson

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson is a dietitian and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.