Acid reflux: exercise may be causing it

When acid reflux occurs, stomach contents flow backwards into the esophagus. This happens because the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxes or weakens, allowing acids to escape. When reflux occurs, any number of symptoms can present themselves, including heartburn, coughing, and indigestion. This frequently occurs because of diet and certain bad habits (such as smoking and drinking). However there is one lesser known culprit of acid reflux: exercise. It is estimated that as many as 58% of athletes experience reflux.

Fortunately, there are ways to continue exercising without enduring the pain of acid reflux.
One of the common mistakes made with exercise is eating closely to working out. If you experience acid reflux while working out, this may be the reason. Avoid high-fat and high protein foods for at least two hours prior to working out. Fats and proteins take longer for the body to digest, and high fat foods often aggravate reflux anyway. If you wan to eat before working out, allow yourself time to digest, and stick to carbohydrates. It is also important not to overeat. In general, eating smaller meals will improve reflux.

There are several other reasons that working out can trigger acid reflux: exercise methods may be to blame. A recent study found that weightlifters were more likely to experience reflux than runners or cyclists. This is believed to be because weightlifters only use energy in small bursts. Scientists also theorize that acid reflux may increase during exercise because of increased blood flow, body position, motion, and increased pressure on the abdomen. In addition, bouncing or bending during exercise can worsen reflux.

There is no reason to stop working out if you suffer from acid reflux: exercise can still be done with minimal irritation. Try modifying your workout to reduce bouncing and bending- for instance, switch to weight machines instead of free weights. Drink plenty of water to help aid digestion. You may also want to consider watering down sports drinks, as some of their contents can irritate stomach acids. Of course, you should still avoid eating reflux-triggering foods throughout the day. Many people also reduce their risk of reflux by taking an anti-reflux medication prior to working out. Talk to your doctor if your acid reflux is interfering with maintaining your health.

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