Acid Reflux and Menopause: Everything You Need To Know

This article explains the relationship of menopause with GERD (Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease) to women of all ages. For generations women approached menopause and acid reflux with lack of knowledge about the two seemingly different but interrelated problems. A clear understanding about the complex relationship between the two can help you a lot in dealing effectively with both, successfully. Even if you are about a decade short of your menopausal age, this information can help you prepare yourself better for the future. Those who suffer from GERD, irrespective of their age, can really change their approach to the menacing problem after reading this article. Are you ready to change your perception and bring in the necessary paradigm shift? If yes, then continue to read below.

Prevalence & Statistics: Conservative vs. Neo-Liberal Approach

According to “Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine 18th Edition” 40% Americans report acid reflux at least once in a month. While 7-10% of them report acid reflux daily. 1 Another PubMed study found 60% Americans to experience it once in a month with 20-30% experiencing it on a weekly basis. 2 Even if we go with the conservative figures of Harrison’s, the situation is alarming. The first study that highlighted a possible relationship between the acid reflux and menopause was PUBLISHED in 1977. 3

Recent studies have evaluated the epidemiological data for both the problems and now we exactly know the gravity of the situation. The largest study conducted in menopausal women with detailed information about the HRT and GERD symptoms is “The Nurses’ Health Study Cohort”. This study was conducted over a period of 26 years starting in 1976 and featuring 121,700 nurses, which makes it the perfect tool to draw some valuable inferences. 4 This study showed that 18% women experienced acid reflux in menopause. Later studies that reevaluated the same data for further information found that those who used postmenopausal hormone therapies prior to their menopause was at an increased risk of acid reflux with numbers going up to 25%.

If you think that was it, you are mistaken

Those women who continue to take hormone therapies (Estrogen use was the most common hormone therapy at that time and still continue to be the most common therapy) were at the greatest risk. 28% women taking estrogen are likely to experience GERD symptoms. 5 Those women who took a combination of estrogen and progesterone were 6% less likely to develop acid reflux. So if you must take a hormone therapy in menopause, let it be a combination of estrogen & progesterone.

The Rattling Question: Whether acid reflux is caused by menopause?

The answer is yes. Another cohort study published in 2012 clearly demonstrated that acid reflux is one of the many problems caused by menopause. Though not all menopausal women expe/rience it. 6If a menopausal women has a history of GERD then her acid reflux is going to be worse during the peri-menopause (the period around the onset of menopause that is often marked by various physical signs such as hot flashes and menstrual irregularity) and menopause. 7 Above statistics show that there is a hormonal component to the acid reflux in menopausal women. Hormone replacement therapies (PMH, SERM’s and OTC Hormone Preparations) adversely affect the acid reflux symptom and aggravate it.

Treatment Options

As the proverbial saying goes “prevention is better than cure”, a preventive approach is the first logical intervention for the treatment of acid reflux. Stop taking any medication that can cause acid reflux like NSAID’s. Limit intake/consumption of:

  • Chocolate
  • Tobacco
  • Ethanol
  • Caffeine
  • Snacks before bedtime
  • Raw onions
  • Fatty foods
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Alcoholic beverages

Herbal Remedies

  1. Aloe Vera can help in acid reflux through its soothing effects. Taking a teaspoon of Aloe Vera juice during an acid reflux episode can provide very quick relief.
  2. Slippery Elm is a tree extract that can coat the lining of the esophagus & stomach and thus relieves the burning sensation. The usual recommendations are two tablespoons with half glass water at bedtime in moderate symptoms. For severe acid reflux same can be taken after every meal.
  3. Marshmallow works almost the same way as Slippery Elm with some delayed but long lasting effect. Taking one tablespoon of marshmallow dried root with a cup of hot water makes a soothing tea for acid reflux patients. Herbalist recommend this tea twice daily.
  4. Apple Cider Vinegar can also help you fight acute symptomatic pain of acid reflux. Taking a tablespoon in water can provide instantaneous relief. 8

Pharmaceutical Treatments

As the acid is the main culprit in GERD, acid suppressing drugs are usually recommended to treat it. Sometimes in combination with acid neutralizing agents like magnesium and aluminum containing antacids. Some commonly used medications for acid reflux are:

  • Cimetidine
  • Ranitidine
  • Famotidine
  • Nizatidine
  • Omeprazole
  • Lansoprazole
  • Rabeprazole
  • Pantoprazole
  • Esomeprazole

Lifestyle Modifications

Following five lifestyle changes can help you control your acid reflux:

  1. Change Your Diet
  2. Quit Smoking
  3. Exercise
  4. Take 7-8 hour sleep
  5. Eat raw fruits & vegetables.

Notes:

  1. ATLAS OF ORAL MANIFESTATIONS OF DISEASE, Gastroenterology & Hepatology- Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine 18th Edition, Page 38.
  2. 2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=El-Serag%20H,%20Petersen%20N,%20Carter%20J,%20et%20al.%20Gastroesophageal%20reflux%20among%20different%20racial%20groups%20in%20the%20United%20States.%20Gastroenterology.%202004;126:1692%E2%80%931699.
  3. Van Thiel D, Gavaler J, Hoshi S, Sara R, Stremple J. Heartburn of pregnancy. Gastroenterology. 1977;72:666–668.
  4. http://www.channing.harvard.edu/nhs/
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2761884/#!po=14.8649
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3411455/
  7. Merriam Webster Medical Dictionary Online Edition http://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/perimenopause
  8. http://www.gerd-diet.com/gerd-treatment/

Comments

  1. Cynthia Jennings says:

    Thank you for this article. I am experiencing perimenopause. Lately I have been experiencing this heavy pressure in my chest, as if an elephant was standing in my chest. I had all the “heart” related test done, all returned negative. The Cardiologist put me on Omeprazole. It’s only been 4 days, I have some relief. I don’t eat an abundance of the foods that typically cause acid reflux. So my question is what is happening to my body. This article answered my question.

  2. Thank you for this article. I, too, am in menopause and until a couple of months ago I’d never suffered from indigestion. Now, there are symptoms every other day. I notice it before breakfast so after 12 hours of eating nothing and intermittently during the day but not every day. Pepto provides instant relief but I don’t like to rely on it. I’m still figuring out triggers but it’s good to know that it is a manageable symptom of hormone changes.

  3. Thank you for this article. I now understand that acid problems can be caused by menopause. This has helped me understand why I am experiencing acid reflux and heartburn since starting menopause a few months back. I found yoga has helped too. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Dawn Morgan says:

    Acid reflux and Menopause in full swing here, too. I just turned 49 in December, and twice in the last two weeks I’ve had horrible evening bouts of acidic belching, burning throat, and a foul taste from the acid in my mouth. It’s downright awful. I know I need to lose a lot of weight and clean up my diet, and I promised myself by my 50th birthday I’d try to achieve these goals. I know I can’t deal with these new reflux issues for much longer, so I guess some hard lifestyle changes are in order!!! Thanks for this article.

  5. Jenny Frost says:

    I was allergic to Omeprazole. It took 2=3 years to work out what was causing the terrible skin and scalp itching. Try everything natural before using antacids. Look at research articles that suggest antacids like mylanta actually perpetuate the reflux problem.

  6. Jacqui C says:

    I suffered for several months with severe acid reflux that woke me up in the night – I regularly thought I was having a heart attack! I recently gave up all grains – no wheat, no oats, no rice, no pseudo grains – and my symptoms have completely disappeared, not even a slight discomfort. I now eat a basically paleo diet with no grains at all.

  7. Hi I’m 34 and have acid reflux as I am typing this. Thanks to all of you. I am a nurse but most days I am plagued by question and anxiety about my health. I visited the ER twice in a row in february nothing was wrong just my Iron is so low, so I have increased my iron intake through food. Now and again I get severe heart burn and hot flushes. That I have to take OTC acid reducer. From what I learned from you all is to check what I eat, from this day forward I will change what I eat. Hope for the best to everyone.

  8. Heather H. says:

    I am 58 yrs old and been in full on Menopause for the past 3 years. Over the last year it has gotten worse in the area of night sweats and hot flashes at anytime! Day or night. The “Gerd”/Acid reflux is thru the roof and running most of my life right now, including a few trips to the hospital due to the severe nausea. I struggle with it almost everyday but the worst thing is the ongoing nausea. Brutal. I work from home and sometimes have to cancel the day the nausea is so great. Gastroscopy and Colonoscopy shows all normal. So today started Menosmart Plus as I have heard great testimonies of women taking it. Since it appears hormonal…….I will live with it. Thank goodness per prescription anti nauseant meds and Pepto!

  9. totlyn bowman says:

    Am nine months of menopause now and I have acid reflux am on panpure it’s so annoying am also fifty two years will it eventually go Away I’ve done barium meal it’s show the reflux mrj shows spondylosis it worries me a lot.

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