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Can Exercise Cause Acid Reflux?

Exercise is generally good and beneficial, but not always. Exercise is good for improving strength, heart conditioning, weight control, and overall health. On the other hand, it can affect reflux and make it worse. Exercise can cause problems with reflux because of its effects on the digestive system and the physical positioning and pressures it places on the stomach and the esophagus. However, acid reflux should not be a reason to avoid exercising because exercise has so many positive and beneficial effects on your body. Exercising properly can help you avoid the problems caused by reflux disease.

When people engage in physical activity, the body shunts blood away from the stomach to the muscles that are being used in exercise. This diversion of blood makes the stomach and small intestine work less efficiently and requires that food remain in the stomach longer for proper digestion. The longer the food remains in the stomach, the more acid can build up and the more reflux potential is created by the body.

You have heard people say it is important to wait one hour after eating before you go swimming or exercise. There is some truth to this. As you participate in physical activity the food and all the contents of your stomach slosh around. A stomachful of sloshing food and acid can also move up into the esophagus and cause severe reflux. For this reason, it is important to eat smaller meals before exercising and allow ample time for the food to be digested before you participate in intense exercise and activity.

The types of food you eat around the time of exercise can also make a difference. Foods that are higher in fat content generally take longer to digest and remain in the stomach a longer period of time. These foods also require higher acid production for complete digestion, which is a good setup for worsening reflux disease. Carbohydrates are digested more quickly and can pass through the stomach much easier, causing less reflux symptoms if you are going to exercise or participate in high-energy activity. Also, citrus and tomato-based foods, caffeine, mints, and chocolate all are associated with acid reflux.

While exercising, it is important that you replace fluid lost through sweating and perspiration by drinking liquids. Liquids are beneficial in that they help hydrate your body and move digested food through your digestive system. Certain liquids should, however, be avoided during exercise because they may increase reflux. Sodas and citrus juices are acidic and may have carbonation that promotes reflux. Caffeinated beverages relax the LES, facilitating reflux.

Finally, it is important to remember what type of exercise your body will be able to handle if you have bad reflux disease. Some exercises that involve bending over or into a hunched position, such as sit-ups, place extra pressure on the stomach, which may worsen reflux. Other activities, like swimming, in which the body is horizontal, can also cause problems when the stomach is level with or above the level of the esophagus.

However, the benefits of exercising far outweigh the dangers. Exercise can help vitalize so many organs in your body and can even help you lose weight, which can reduce the pressure on your stomach and improve reflux. So, don’t try to avoid exercise, but rather modify the foods you eat before exercising, the timing of meals, and the activity so that exercise will not affect your reflux.

Can Exercise Cause Acid Reflux? References

By Mortin - Copyright 2009
Last modification 31/12/2009