There are many scenarios that can trigger acid reflux, and exercise is one of them. If you experience heartburn while running, lifting, or otherwise working out, you may have exercise induced gastrointestinal reflux disease, or GERD.
What Is Exercise Induced GERD?
Exercise induced GERD is acid reflux that results from physical activity. In other words, the acid in your stomach washes back up your esophagus, causing a burning sensation. Normally, this shouldn’t happen since the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) at the base of your esophagus is supposed to prevent backwash, but if it’s too relaxed or weak, acid reflux can happen.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to manage exercise induced acid reflux.
Managing Exercise Induced GERD
Among the lifestyle changes you can make to reduce exercise induced GERD are the following.
Avoid problem foods
Certain foods can exacerbate acid reflux. These often include:
- Red sauces
- Spicy foods
- Orange juice and other citrus
- Fatty foods
While cutting these out of your diet entirely can help manage acid reflux in general, it’s a good idea to avoid eating at least two hours prior to working out. The less full your stomach is, the less pressure is put against your LES and the less likely acid reflux will be.
Avoid lying flat
Another tactic is fairly practical—avoid lying flat while exercising. If you’re doing crunches or sit-ups, try to do them on an incline instead of flat on the ground. That way, you’ll keep the contents of your stomach down and avoid reflux.
Some studies have shown that yoga can have a positive impact on GERD, particularly when done consistently. Just be careful to avoid positions that could exacerbate it.
Don’t over hydrate
While staying hydrated when working out is good practice, you want to avoid drinking too much. As with eating before your workout, limit fluid intake in order to put less pressure on your LES and prevent reflux.
One last lifestyle change that can reduce exercise induced GERD is to quit smoking. Among the many negative effects of smoking is the fact that it relaxes your LES, making reflux more likely.
More Permanent Solutions
Many people turn to medication to address acid reflux, but many medicines for the problem just reduce the discomfort associated with the symptoms. Others reduce the production of stomach acid, but again, this still does not address the cause of GERD, which is the weakness in the LES.
Of course, lifestyle changes and medications are only temporary workarounds, and they may not be effective for everyone. In order to truly be free from GERD, you’ll need a more permanent solution, especially in severe cases.
Surgical procedures such as Nissen Fundoplication or the LINX procedure can put a permanent end to exercise induced GERD. If you’re experiencing regular acid reflux whenever you work out, it would be worthwhile to talk to a reflux surgery specialist to see if either of these procedures are right for you. Contact Dr. Preeti Malladi to set up a consultation today.