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Is Your Antidepressant and Reflux Disease Linked?
Category: Antidepressants

There could be a link between antidepressant and reflux disease. Therefore, if you take antidepressants and are suffering from frequent acid reflux/GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), your antidepressant medication could be contributing to the symptoms you are experiencing.

Researchers have discovered that a link between antidepressant and acid reflux does in fact exist. Of course, there are different types of antidepressants and not all of them cause or exacerbate symptoms. The type of antidepressant that has been most commonly linked with GERD is known as Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). TCAs are a certain type of antidepressant designed to provide relief from symptoms related to depression such as sadness and irritability.

Tricyclic antidepressants work to restore and balance chemicals within the brain to help treat and prevent depression. However, though effective, these antidepressants also have a number of potential side effects including an increased risk of acid reflux. This link exists because the neurotransmitters the TCAs work on in the brain are the same as those found in the stomach.

Thus, both the brain and stomach are equally affected, which means when the TCAs slow down and relax the muscles in the brain, they also slow down and relax the muscles in the stomach. Hence, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) becomes relaxed, allowing the contents within the stomach to be refluxed back into the esophagus. In addition, the slowing down of stomach muscles can also cause delayed stomach emptying allowing acid to remain longer, increasing the chance of reflux.

The most common symptom to watch for if you think your antidepressant medication may be affecting you is heartburn. Heartburn is characterized by a painful, burning sensation within the upper chest.

Though there are other antidepressant medications, tricyclic antidepressants are commonly prescribed to treat a variety of depression disorders. If you are on any of the TCAs that have been approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for depression and you suffer from GERD, or are noticing an increase in your acid reflux symptoms (I.E. frequent heartburn), you need to bring this to your doctor's attention.

Tricyclic antidepressants include: Amitriptyline, Amoxapine, Desipramine, Doxepin, Imipramine, Nortriptyline, Protriptyline, and Trimipramine.

Your doctor may be able to suggest or approve another type of medication to treat depression to reduce the chance of reflux disease, however this attempt at switching medications may be unsuccessful. The reason is because there are diverse antidepressant drugs and everyone responds differently to medications. Thus, what works well for someone, may not be beneficial to another. Therefore, if TCAs are the only meds that work for you in terms of bringing depression under control, your only option is to try other methods to prevent or control acid reflux.

To help limit and prevent symptoms try the following:

  • Increase your intake of water
  • Limit or stop consuming alcoholic beverages
  • Stop smoking
  • Eat frequent and smaller portions of food.
  • Avoid foods that can trigger acid reflux or make it worse (i.e. spicy, fatty foods, chocolate, mint, caffeine, citrus fruits and juices)
  • Refrain from lying down or exercising at least one hour after eating
  • Sleep with your head elevated 4 inches to prevent reflux from occurring while sleeping.
  • Manage your stress. Stress can exacerbate GERD symptoms, learn how to reduce your stress by finding ways to relax and release your tension.

Finally, be sure to talk to your doctor about your antidepressant and reflux disease concerns. He or she may be able to help you find a method of acid reflux treatment that works well for you.