Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common problem in people with obesity. In fact, your risk for developing GERD rises as your weight increases.

At the University of Chicago Medicine, our team of experts can design a treatment plan that can help you lose weight, reduce your uncomfortable GERD symptoms and improve your quality of life.

How does obesity contribute to GERD? 

Carrying extra weight on your body puts added pressure on your stomach. This can lead to more stomach acid traveling up into your esophagus. This causes heartburn, belching, chest pain, and other uncomfortable GERD symptoms.

But the problem is not limited to those with obesity. Even being just slightly overweight can raise your risk for developing GERD.

Can GERD cause weight gain?

Not for most people. But some people find that their GERD symptoms get worse when they exercise. This may lead to inactivity and weight gain.

Weight Loss and GERD

Will losing weight help GERD?

Yes. Even losing just a few pounds may improve your heartburn and other GERD symptoms. Some people notice that their GERD goes away after they lose weight.

At UChicago Medicine, our physicians can design a weight loss program that meets your goals and helps you find relief from your GERD. Our multidisciplinary team of experts offers both nonsurgical and surgical options.

Besides losing weight, what else can help GERD?

Making dietary changes, like eating less fatty and spicy foods, can help reduce mild to moderate GERD symptoms. Other options that can help include medications that reduce the amount of acid in your stomach. However, these medications only provide temporary relief of symptoms.

For more lasting relief, many GERD patients choose anti-reflux surgery. During this procedure, a gastrointestinal surgeon tightens the valve between the stomach and esophagus (called the lower esophageal sphincter). This prevents stomach acid from going back up the esophagus, so you have fewer symptoms.

If you have a lot of weight to lose, you may be a candidate for bariatric surgery, which can also reduce your GERD symptoms.

GERD and Bariatric Surgery

Does bariatric surgery help GERD?

If you have a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or greater or have diabetes and suffer from GERD, you may benefit from weight loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery. One type of surgery called a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass can help you lose weight and reduce your GERD symptoms.

Can I get Roux-en-Y gastric bypass for GERD?

A Roux-en-Y gastric bypass can help patients eat less, lose weight and have fewer GERD symptoms. During the procedure, the surgeon reduces the size of the stomach and reroutes food directly to the small intestine.

This type of surgery may be an option if you have GERD and a BMI of 35 or more. You may also be a candidate if you have GERD and diabetes.

Can I get gastric sleeve if I have GERD?

A gastric sleeve is a common weight loss surgery in which the stomach is permanently reduced to about 15 percent of its original size. If you have GERD or Barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous condition that can develop from GERD, a gastric sleeve may not be the best option for you. That is because a gastric sleeve may make your reflux worse.

In general, a better option for people with GERD and obesity is gastric bypass surgery, which can help you lose weight and reduce your GERD symptoms.

Esophageal Problems After Bariatric Surgery

Can bariatric surgery make GERD worse?

When the correct operation is chosen after discussion with their surgeon, most patients have fewer GERD symptoms. In fact, gastric bypass is an operation that treats GERD. However, in certain cases, one type of bariatric surgery called a gastric sleeve can aggravate GERD and make symptoms like heartburn worse. 

When considering weight loss surgery, it is important that you discuss your GERD with your doctor. When you come to UChicago Medicine, we will work with you to understand your goals and determine the best treatment option — which may or may not involve surgery — to ease your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Can gastric bypass cause GERD? 

Gastric bypass can actually treat GERD. Many patients will experience relief of their symptoms after this type of weight loss surgery and can stop taking acid-suppression medications.

Managing Acid Reflux After Bariatric Surgery

How long after my weight loss surgery will I see an improvement in my GERD symptoms?

Research has shown that most people notice an improvement in their GERD symptoms within nine months of having gastric bypass surgery.

Even after another type of operation called a gastric sleeve, patients may see their GERD symptoms improve following significant weight loss.

What if I don’t see any improvement in my GERD after weight loss surgery?

After bariatric surgery, most people have fewer GERD symptoms. If you don’t notice an improvement, changing your eating habits can also help you manage your GERD.

To reduce GERD symptoms, try to limit or avoid the following foods and beverages:

  • Fried foods
  • Fatty foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Acidic foods like tomatoes
  • Alcohol
  • Sodas and other carbonated drinks
  • Caffeinated beverages

If you smoke, quitting can also help reduce your GERD symptoms.

At UChicago Medicine, our multidisciplinary team can connect you with the resources and support you need to make and sustain these lifestyle changes.

Can I take antacids after gastric bypass?

Yes, you can take antacids after gastric bypass. However, most patients don’t need these medications as much after their surgery because they have fewer GERD symptoms.

Request an Appointment

The information you provide will enable us to assist you as efficiently as possible. A representative will contact you within one to two business days to help you schedule an appointment.

You can also make an appointment with our providers by:

Scheduling a virtual video visit to see a provider from the comfort of your home

Requesting an online second opinion from our specialists

To speak to someone directly, please call 1-888-824-0200. If you have symptoms of an urgent nature, please call your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.


* Required Field

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Treating five medical problems with one surgery

Gastric bypass surgery was an option for Michael Meadows who had other medical conditions in addition to reflux. This operation works to treat reflux as well as chronic conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, arthritis and allows for dramatic weight loss.