Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is chronic or heartburn or acid reflux. GERD can lead to cancer and other complications. Increased body mass can cause a “squeeze phenomenon” forcing stomach acid into the esophagus. The higher a person’s BMI, the more likely he or she is to experience symptoms of GERD more than once a week. When tested for GERD in a pH study, almost 70 percent of people with a BMI over 30 tested positive for GERD. Some researchers believe there may also be a hormonal link between obesity and GERD.
Symptoms of GERD can be treated with medications like proton pump inhibitors, but doing so requires the patient to be dependent on medications for the rest of his or her life. Weight loss through lifestyle changes or bariatric surgery can reduce or eliminate symptoms of GERD without medication while also addressing other health complications associated with obesity.