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Health & Advice

Exercise and Reflux

Acid reflux is a process that is associated with heartburn. If stomach acid 'refluxes' or comes up out of the stomach into the oesophagus (food pipe) and irritates the sensitive lining, pain (heartburn) can result.

Reflux has several possible causes that include exercise, dietary triggers such as spicy foods, and physical conditions such as pregnancy – when a growing baby can put pressure on the stomach.

We would think that exercise could only have a positive effect on your body, so in this article we will look at the physical effects of exercise on reflux as well as the effects of reflux on exercise.

The relationship between reflux and exercise

While exercise can help, you may actually have experienced heartburn as the result of exercising. Activities such as running, jumping or bending exercises can cause jarring to your body, or put it in a position that makes acid reflux easier to occur. Other activities, such as playing football or tag with your children may also have the same result. So, if you believe that your reflux might be related to your fitness levels, but feel unable to improve your fitness because of the reflux, it can feel like an impossible situation.

How fitness can affect reflux

Carrying a few extra pounds around the abdomen can put extra pressure on your stomach and potentially cause stomach acid to reflux upwards into the oesophagus. It may also put pressure on the muscle between your stomach and oesophagus, which can make it less efficient at keeping stomach acid in place. So by considering a routine of moderate regular exercise, you can help keep your weight down, which may ultimately result in less heartburn.

Addressing the exercise versus reflux problem

Firstly, check when the symptoms of reflux occur. Is it because you engage in physical activity too soon after eating? If so, then:

  • Try to take a rest period after eating. Sit upright afterwards, or consider taking a short walk

  • If you have planned a visit to the gym or other form of physical exercise, try to do it two to three hours or so after eating

  • Try to avoid food that can trigger reflux, such as spicy or fatty foods. If you know you're going to be physically active some time after eating, eat a light meal such as pasta or salad.

Secondly, re-examine the type of exercise you have been doing:

  • Try to avoid jarring type exercise and choose walking, cycling or a social activity like ballroom dancing instead 

  • Deep breathing exercises have been found to help reduce symptoms.1

  • Pilates and yoga classes may offer a gentler and less jarring form of exercise, and offer breathing instruction too

  • If you use the gym, choose the equipment that needs to be used while you're upright, rather than requiring bending or curling movements.

Taking action against the symptoms of reflux

If you continue to experience symptoms while trying to get yourself into a new exercise regime, consider Gaviscon Double Action. Gaviscon does not only neutralise stomach acid, but also forms a physical barrier to acid - a layer on top of the stomach contents, which helps to stop acid refluxing into the food pipe. This protective barrier provide long lasting relieve - up to two times longer than antacids.

If you are ever in any doubt about the pain you may feel during or following exercise, always ask for professional medical advice. While it may take a little time to establish the right exercise for you, there are many options, so you're bound to find something. And remember, try to aim for small positive changes, giving yourself time to discover what works best.

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