Gender May Affect Reflux Symptoms

Does your gender play a role in how you experience acid reflux? Australian researchers have reason to believe so. A study published in the Archives of Surgery found that men and women differ in their symptoms of acid reflux, and this could have an impact on long-term health.

The study involved 3,000 adults in the Australian community as well as 2,000 patients who were having corrective surgery to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The researchers found that while men and women were equally likely to suffer from acid reflux, women were more likely to complain of frequent and severe heartburn than men. The study also noted that:

  • Women reported more difficulty swallowing food.
  • Men were more likely to have a weak lower esophageal sphincter (LES).
  • Women were more likely to treat their heartburn with medication.
  • Women had higher incidence of hiatal hernia.
  • Men were more likely to have esophagitis or Barrett’s esophagus.
  • Women seeking corrective surgery for reflux tended to be older and were more likely to be obese than men.

Interestingly, researchers found that while women were more likely to complain of acid reflux, men actually experienced more symptoms of the condition. One possible explanation is that men are less likely to seek medical attention when they experience problematic symptoms (Source: WebMD). This would further explain why men are three to four times more likely than women to develop esophageal cancer. Tissue damage from long-term acid exposure can lead to precancerous cell mutation in the esophagus, which may develop into esophageal cancer.

While men and women may experience acid reflux differently, both genders should be equally diligent in seeking treatment for their symptoms. Chronic reflux can lead to serious health complications, but many of these conditions are preventable and treatable with medical intervention. If you frequently experience heartburn or have any other symptoms associated with GERD, schedule an appointment with your doctor or gastroenterologist.