Acid Reflux and IBS

ACID REFLUX, what’s that got to do with IBS?

Since being diagnosed with IBS, I have discovered very useful information, one of which is that a big percentage of IBS sufferers also suffer with the chronic form of acid reflux. Most people are familiar with the term heartburn, that burning sensation in the chest, which happens when we eat some food that does not agree with us, but unfortunately for IBS sufferers it is not just simple heartburn.

Understanding Acid Reflux and GERD

Acid reflux simply means that acid made by your stomach backs up through the lower esophageal junction (where your esophagus and stomach meet). At low levels, acid reflux is a normal part of digestion and movement along the gastrointestinal tract.

In normal individuals, acid reflux can cause symptoms such as heartburn, but it is not considered to be a disease. Surely it is best to avoid certain foods that trigger acid reflux, such as fatty foods, coffee, chocolate, etc., by doing so, this by itself, will help relieve any symptoms it causes.

GERD is much worst than acid reflux. It is a disease that may cause significant damage to the tissues and cells of the esophagus over time. GERD occurs when stomach acids back up into the esophagus, due to a poor-functioning lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES is a band of muscle that acts as a valve between the esophagus and the stomach.

The main symptom of both acid reflux and GERD is frequent heartburn with a burning sensation in the chest.  Sometimes symptoms of heartburn mimic the symptom of an acute myocardial infarction and angina. Which is exactly what used to happen to me, before I changed my diet and lost some weight, I had episode of chest pains identical to unstable angina. After having scans and angiogram the result was that my heart was perfectly fine, acid reflux and GERD were causing my symptoms and a doctor suggested also poor absorption of magnesium. Of course cardiac diseases are very dangerous and it is best to rule them out first, when a person has unexplained chest pains. 

Other symptoms may include burning in the throat or a sour liquid taste in back of the mouth. While occasional acid reflux is normal, GERD typically requires treatment to relieve symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and difficulty swallowing.

The bottom line: Acid reflux is the backing up of stomach acid, while GERD is a disease state of which acid reflux is part. 

The IBS/GERD Connection

IBS isn’t a psychological illness, nor is it considered a true disease. It’s classified as a “functional disorder,” in which symptoms are real, but lack an identifiable physiological cause. Although the causes of irritable bowel syndrome are unknown, it’s almost always exacerbated by stress.

IBS also often coexists with the chronic form of acid reflux, known as “gastroesophageal reflux disease” (GERD). This coexistence suggests that the two conditions may share a common disease mechanism.

According to a 2009 study published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences, “a first diagnosis of either IBS or GERD significantly increases the risk of a subsequent diagnosis of the other condition.” 

Treatments for Acid Reflux and IBS

While medications may provide relief in many cases, the preferred treatment for most people suffering from both acid reflux and IBS is lifestyle and dietary modification. In addition to avoiding the above foods, sufferers of both conditions may find relief by changing their diet, losing weight, quitting smoking, and learning stress reduction techniques such as deep breathing, exercise, or yoga.

A significant reduction on my symptoms happened when I started to follow a low FODMAP diet,  as I had to make different food choices, I could no longer consume food like chocolate. cakes, biscuits, take away food with rich sauces etc. because of their high FODMAP content and therefore by reducing those fatty food I also reduced my acid reflux. I started to cook more from scratch, using healthier low FODMAP ingredients.

Although lifestyle and dietary changes can benefit most people with IBS, the same as they have helped me, those who aren’t helped may find relief with prescribed medications suggested by their doctor.

Antacids may also be enough to relieve symptoms for those with occasional mild acid reflux.


As always the information contained on this site is my opinion, research and personal experience. Consult your doctor if you have any symptoms or medical issues.

About Larah

I have been suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome for many years, but it took a longtime to get a diagnosis, since then I have been following a low FODMAP diet, which has changed my life for the better. This is my story and experience with IBS and the low FODMAP diet.

16 comments on “Acid Reflux and IBS

  1. when i had acid reflux i thought it was having a heart attack, consulted my doctor, he gave me some prescriptions and watch what i eat, he first recommended a low FODMAP diet, that how i go to here, I’ll be sure to check out your other post

    • Hi Laura, it sounds like you have gone through the same thing I did. I’m sure you are glad too that it’s ‘only’ IBS 😉
      Take good care and keep on following, I’ll have the Christmas recipes ready soon.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with making lifestyle adjustments to cut down acid reflux. It’s a very uncomfortable experience, but I would prefer to think I’m making long-term changes, rather than going for a quick fix with medication.

    • Hi Jessica, thanks for your comment. You are spot on, regarding lifestyle adjustments and making long-term changes to help IBS symptoms. All the best and take care.

  3. acid reflux is terrible, all my experiences have been terrible. wanting to throw up but not able to, the feeling of the burning in the throat plus a sour liquid taste. the occurrence reduced after i started using the low FODMAP diet. thanks for sharing your experience in this informative post. 😀

  4. There are so many ways our digestive tracts can go wrong. Thankfully most people only have one or two symptoms. Twenty years ago I had a friend who suffered terribly from GERD. I always felt so bad for him because there didn’t seem to be much anyone could do. I’m glad there are so many diet options today that can help to heal GI problems. Some day they’ll come up with a one size fits all solution, but until then it just a matter of trial and error. Thanks for all the good helpful information.

    • I appreciate your comment and yes, thankfully we do know a lot more now from ailments like acid reflux and conditions like GERD.

  5. This is a great resource. I always prefer to take the natural approach before using medication prescribed by a doctor. Thanks so much!

    • Thank you so much for your comment Sophie, I’m glad you found this article useful. I am still learning a lot about IBS and low FODMAP diet, but anything I learn it’s a step further to improve those nasty symptoms.

  6. Ugh. Acid reflux is the worst feeling. It always hits me unexpectedly, and often when I’m mid-sentence. Not cool! It’s usually minor, but there was a time when it was painful enough to make me concerned about my heart, and wound up having tests like what you described in the article. Like you, my heart was fine. I just had to make some dietary changes and it hasn’t happened since. Guess you really are what you eat!

    • Hello Mara, I am glad that you were able to control that horrible acid reflux with some diet changes, it was the same for me. Thanks for your comment and stopping by my blog, I appreciate.

  7. Acid reflux is horrible! I have it but thankfully it is not too bad. My problem is I tend to get it when I go to bed I night, so it is when I lay down. I am sure there is a link there but I just haven’t studied it enough, probably because it hasn’t caused that much problems yet or is not painful enough for me to worry and reach out for help.

    Now this article has raised enough questions for me to start to wonder if I need to do something because I am like Chris, I get the feeling of the burning in the throat plus a sour liquid taste. Hrmmm….need to fix this…

  8. I am researching Acid Reflux because I think that is what I am feeling due to a Lap Band I had done a few years ago. I get that feeling of the burning in the throat plus a sour liquid taste. I never had this TILL I lost the weight and this was after I had the lap band installed…..which also goes back to my IBS problem.

    Such a circle I have weaved for myself HAH! Thank you for a great article. Gives me more information to chew one.

    • Hi Chris, for me the symptoms improved when I have lost some weight, it was definitely GERD more than simple acid reflux. I also had a little annoying cough, which never went away for many months. Good luck to you, I really hope your acid reflux improves. Take care.

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