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Heartburn and the menopause: what’s the link?

How to prevent that uncomfortable feeling after eating

Despite its name, heartburn (also known as acid reflux) is not a heart-related problem. It’s a horrible burning feeling in your chest and throat that happens when the acid normally in your stomach travels up into your oesophagus (food pipe). This can leave an unpleasant taste in your mouth, give you bad breath and make you feel bloated and nauseous.

What causes it?

Common causes of heartburn include stress and being overweight. Certain foods and drinks can make symptoms worse or be the cause of heartburn in the first place. Drinks such as coffee and alcohol can trigger it, as can spicy and fatty foods (including chocolate).

Symptoms are often worse after eating, when lying down and when bending over.

Does the menopause have an impact?

Fluctuating oestrogen levels can alter the amount of acid your stomach produces. One study of 497 women found that 42% per cent of perimenopausal and 47% per cent of menopausal women suffered from heartburn [1].

Stress and anxiety can also cause heartburn – when you’re stressed, your body produces more of the hormone cortisol, which can affect your digestion. So it’s well worth addressing any menopause-related anxiety.

How can I treat heartburn?

Although heartburn is not the same as IBS, following diet and eating habits that help with IBS will often help heartburn too.

Eat smaller, more frequent meals, and avoid eating 3-4 hours before bed. When sleeping, ensure your head and chest are above the level of your waist to stop stomach acid travelling up.

If you experience persisting symptoms despite diet and lifestyle changes, this needs to be investigated by your GP who can arrange any tests required. It is also important to seek medical review if you have other symptoms associated with the onset of heartburn such as weight loss, swallowing difficulties or pain on swallowing.


[1] Infantino, M. (2008), ‘The prevalence and pattern of gastroesophageal reflux symptoms in perimenopausal and menopausal women’, Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, 20 (5), pp.266-72, doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7599.2008.00316.x


NHS: heartburn and acid reflux

Heartburn and the menopause: what’s the link?

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