Why Heartburn Gets Worse with Age

Under normal conditions, as you swallow your food, a muscle at the bottom of your esophagus called the lower esophageal sphin

Aging brings on a host of unwelcome developments, and increasing heartburn is among them. If you find that your acid reflux tends to flare more frequently with each passing year, there are several reasons why this happens.

At Illinois Gastrointestinal Group, our team of board-certified experts understands the many conditions that can affect your digestive system, and we offer a wide range of services to help you find relief. One of the more common complaints among our patients is the increasing incidence of heartburn as they age.

Here’s a look at some of the reasons why this happens and some steps you can take to offset your heartburn.

Muscle health

To better understand why age plays a role in increasing heartburn, it’s helpful to step back and take a look at what happens when you experience the problem. Heartburn is the result of acid reflux, which occurs when the acids in your stomach back up into your esophagus. 

Under normal conditions, as you swallow your food, a muscle at the bottom of your esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter closes, keeping the food in your stomach. If this muscle weakens, which can happen with age, stomach acids can make their way back up into your throat, causing the discomfort associated with heartburn.

Gaining weight

Another contributor to age-related heartburn is weight gain. As you age, your body isn’t as physically fit, which means you may be leading a more sedentary lifestyle. As a result, you may be packing on more pounds than you’re used to. While the mechanism isn’t entirely clear, researchers have found that extra weight is closely tied to acid reflux.

Hiatal hernia

A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of your stomach breaches a weak area in your diaphragm, allowing it to protrude through into your chest cavity. This, in turn, can lead to acid reflux and heartburn. As many as 60% of people over the age of 60 have some degree of a hiatal hernia, largely due to muscle deterioration in the diaphragm. 


One of the biggest culprits behind heartburn are medications, such as those that treat high blood pressure. As people age, more health issues crop up, forcing them to turn to medications that can lead to heartburn.

Fighting back against heartburn

If you’re experiencing more heartburn as you age, the good news is that there are several steps you can take to offset the problem, such as:

This last point is an important one, and we can help you figure out which foods or drinks set off your acid reflux, leading to heartburn. Since the best way to address heartburn is to avoid it altogether, we can help you come up with a solid trigger-avoidance plan.

As well, it’s important that we evaluate your heartburn to determine the underlying cause, so that we can address the root of the problem. Once we have a better idea of what’s causing your heartburn, we can tailor a treatment plan to your situation, which combined with your at-home vigilance, can help you fight back against age-related heartburn.

To find relief from your heartburn, simply contact one of our two offices in Elk Grove Village or Arlington Heights, Illinois. Call the office closest to you or use our online booking tool to request an appointment. 

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