Exercise can cause acid reflux - avoid this drink to lower risk of heartburn symptoms

Heartburn is one of the main symptoms of acid reflux. 

It’s a burning feeling in the chest caused by stomach acid travelling up towards the throat, according to the NHS. 

Lots of people experience heartburn, and one of the triggers can be exercise, so Nexium Control has pulled together some of essential information and advice surrounding exercise and acid reflux, including how to avoid it. 

Why does it occur? 

Exercise can trigger heartburn if the lower oesophageal sphincter is weak or too relaxed, and food or stomach acid "refluxes" back up from the stomach into the oesophagus.

 Different activities carry a higher risk of reflux. Horizontal exercises, for example, mean that your throat and stomach are at the same level, making it easy for stomach acids to flow up your oesophagus, causing heartburn. Running can also bring on the painful symptoms due to the continuous impact of your feet on the ground.

 A common reason for heartburn symptoms to occur during exercise is eating too closely to a period of activity, due to the added pressure of a full stomach on the oesophageal sphincter. 

How common is the condition? 

In the UK there are 8.2 million frequent heartburn sufferers who experience the symptoms twice a week or more. 

Three out of four frequent heartburn sufferers report that heartburn interferes with their sleep.

Two-thirds (66 per cent) of frequent heartburn sufferers rate the pain they experience either quite severe or very severe.

What can I do? 

1) Don’t exercise immediately after eating

Make sure you leave around two hours between your last meal and a period of exercise.

2) Avoid high-carbohydrate sports drinks

Because of the acidic nature of these drinks, they can be a causative factor for heartburn symptoms. Drinking water will mean you are much less likely to induce heartburn.  

3) Avoid common food triggers 

There are certain foods which can trigger heartburn, especially spicy, or rich and fatty foods like curries and acidic based sauces. Most frequent sufferers will know their triggers, so it’s best to avoid these all together, especially before taking exercise.

4) Re-evaluate your heartburn treatment

Many OTC treatments, such as antacids and alginates, only provide short-term relief, meaning heartburn symptoms can come back; frequent sufferers report having to treat an average of more than four times per day to find relief. For some people, re-evaluating their treatment choice can help them achieve longer-term protection against the symptoms. Nexium Control® can provide 24- hour protection from the symptoms of heartburn with just one tablet per day for up to 14 consecutive days. 

5) Don’t give up

In the long term, exercise and the resulting weight loss will help decrease your likelihood of experiencing heartburn. Carrying extra weight puts more pressure on the valve between the food pipe and the stomach, which causes acid to leak upwards from the stomach, triggering symptoms.

GP Dr Sarah Jarvis said: “I would absolutely recommend exercise for people who get frequent heartburn symptoms. Carrying extra weight puts more pressure on the valve between the food pipe and the stomach, which causes acid to leak upwards from the stomach, triggering symptoms. Having said that, certain abdominal exercises like stomach crunches can push acid out of the stomach, also causing heartburn. It’s best to wait at least two hours after a meal before exercising.”

So what does Dr Jarvis recommend to treat heartburn? 

She said: “Traditional heartburn treatments are designed to give temporary relief from the pain of heartburn but don’t tend to tackle acid production. Antacids, for example work reactively by neutralising the acid whilst Alginates prevent acids in the stomach from flowing back into the food pipe by forming a raft. H2 blockers also reduce the amount of acid made by your stomach and last for 12 hours. Proton pump inhibitors (PPI) on the other hand are different as they tackle heartburn at its source by blocking acid production in the stomach. Typically patients will find that PPIs are effective as a first line treatment, they also have the added benefit that just one tablet a day can provide up to 24-hour protection from frequent heartburn.” 

Suffering with heartburn? It could be a side effect of daily vitamin supplements. 

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