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How Obesity Affects Gastrointestinal Conditions


Studies have consistently shown that obesity has negative effects on a variety of gastrointestinal conditions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that almost 40 percent of Americans – more than 90 million people in all – have a Body Mass Index of 30 or higher, which is the cutoff for obesity. Therefore, the fact that obesity has such effects on gastrointestinal issues is clearly a major issue not only in the United States but worldwide.

There are several ways obesity affects gastrointestinal conditions:

Obesity leads to an elevated risk of developing gastrointestinal disease.

This is true for several types of gastrointestinal disease, including gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), diverticulosis, inflammatory bowel disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and GI cancer.

Not only does obesity lead to an elevated risk of gastro-esophageal reflux disease, but it has been proven that weight loss itself has a positive effect on GERD. Evidence strongly suggests that being obese leads to an increased risk of different types of cancer as well as increased mortality from those cancers.

Obesity is associated with more severe gastrointestinal disease.

Just as obesity leads to an increased risk of gastrointestinal disease, it also is associated with more serious gastrointestinal disease symptoms in those who have it. This is true for those with GERD, diverticulosis, and pancreatitis.

Obesity can lead to lower response to treatments/more unfavorable clinical outcomes.

In a study of inflammatory bowel disease patients, obesity was related both to a higher risk of relapse and to being more likely to remain consistently active when compared with those who had a healthy BMI at a 12-month follow-up. The findings confirm earlier data that showed that obesity can negatively affect response to therapy in patients with ulcerative colitis. Since obesity leads to a lower response to treatments, it will also lead to more unfavorable clinical outcomes.

The relationship between obesity and gastrointestinal disease is also present for young people.

A recent study showed that indigestion and upset stomach were much more prevalent in obese children compared with children with a healthy BMI. This same association was also found between obesity and irritable bowel syndrome and functional constipation. Young people who are obese are at an increased risk for gastrointestinal disease just as obese adults are.


There are several ways that obesity has a negative effect on gastrointestinal disease in both children and adults, including an increased likelihood of developing the disease, more severe symptoms, and less successful response to treatments. Gastrointestinal diseases are difficult to cure but can be treated, and obesity can be prevented or treated.

Getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and monitoring your weight are important steps in preventing or reversing obesity. For treatments of gastrointestinal disease, please schedule an appointment today. You can also make an appointment with us to discuss your BMI and weight loss needs.

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