Anxiety can lead to GERD


Q: When my mother is lying down flat in bed, she has a knot in her stomach but when she sits up it goes away. It causes her no pain. What could it be? Gloria F., Taylor

A: Depending on the location in her stomach, it could be a weakening of her intestinal wall or an abdominal hernia; they can show through the skin when someone is reclining flat. While there is no pain, it is important to rule out any underlying malignancy by having a diagnostic scope of the upper gastrointestinal tract (Upper GI). Then, depending on those test results, a computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan of the stomach may be needed.

Q: I am scheduled to see a gastroenterolgist in July. In the meantime, what test or screening can I ask my family doctor for to rule out a bleeding ulcer? Kevin M., Dearborn Heights

A: I do not typically recommend at-home stool sample tests if bleeding exists because it does not show us the source of the blood. An endoscope of the upper gastrointestinal tract would provide immediate answers. If you do not want to wait until July for a gastroenterologist consultation, Southgate Surgery Center can schedule you directly for the procedure and it is possible to have both the procedure and an answer within a week or two.

Q: Can anxiety lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease? Jessica B., Southgate

A: It can. There is nothing proven in clinical trials, but anxiety can trigger problems such as irritable bowel syndrome and gastritis. Exercise is one of the most effective ways to manage both anxiety and GERD if you are overweight (losing five to 10 pounds or so may make your GERD go away altogether). Intense weight lifting and bouncy sports such as jumping rope and running may exacerbate the condition. Start by getting 30 minutes of moderate exercise (walking, yoga, pilates, cycling, etc.) each day.

Rana Sabbagh, M.D., is board-certified in internal medicine, gastroenterology and nutrition. She is the founder of GastroCenter of Michigan and Experior Weight Loss Clinic, 23500 Park St., Suite 2B in Dearborn. Do you have a health question for Dr. Sabbagh? Submit it by email to:

All information provided in Ask The Doctor is intended for your general knowledge. Consult with your personal doctor or pharmacist for any specific health or nutrition issues. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of information you have read in any publication.