If you are a part of the 50% of the world population that possesses the XX chromosomes and haven’t gone through menopause, you most likely have a menstrual cycle every month.
Along with mood swings, cramping, bloating, and fatigue, if you suffer from acid reflux, you may also experience an increase in symptoms such as heartburn and indigestion.
What’s the link between the two?
Simply put, it has to do with an important hormone, progesterone.
Produced by the ovaries and the adrenal glands, it prepares the body for and maintains a pregnancy, regulates the monthly menstrual cycle, and can influence emotions and sexual desire.
However, although it’s an essential hormone for women, it can bring on and exacerbate acid reflux.
You may be wondering what role progesterone plays in heightening symptoms.
The lower esophageal sphincter is a circular ring of muscle in the esophagus that contracts to keep the contents in the stomach, such as acid, from flowing in the wrong direction.
Progesterone has a tendency to relax this sphincter, making it less effective in doing its job of preventing acid from traveling upwards–resulting in indigestion and heartburn for those who suffer from acid reflux.
It’s also why many pregnant women tend to experience higher cases of heartburn versus non-pregnant women, as pregnant women also have elevated levels of progesterone.
Coupled with the usual symptoms of PMS and a monthly period, that’s a lot to deal with all at once!
Here are three tips to minimize symptoms when progesterone levels are elevated, so you have a few less things to worry about.
#1 Be mindful of your diet.
What you eat can potentially increase acid production in your stomach. Stay away from fried, fatty, and acidic foods such as caffeine, French fries, and alcohol. Learn more about what foods to avoid in this previous post.
#2 Sleep in the correct position.
The position you assume when you sleep can also affect your experience of reflux symptoms. I recommend sleeping with your upper body slightly elevated to decrease the chance of acid flowing up into your esophagus, especially during your menstrual cycle.
#3 Lose Weight.
If you’re overweight (technically, if you have a BMI of 25 or greater), you have a higher risk of developing and experiencing more frequent symptoms of acid reflux. By losing weight and achieving an optimal BMI, you’ll be less likely to experience symptoms.
Having a period and elevated hormone levels, including progesterone, is normal and even healthy for a premenopausal woman.
However, it can be irritating to feel an increase of symptoms during your monthly cycle. Now that you’re aware of the link, you can be empowered in taking active steps to prevent an increase in symptoms.
Are you reliant on Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) to manage your acid reflux? If so, you may want to learn more about the connection between PPIs and dementia. Learn more here.