Heartburn is a condition that affects about 20 millions of people every day. Also called as acid reflux, its symptoms consist of chest pain, chronic cough and a burning sensation in the chest. The condition occurs when there is an irritation of the esophagus, caused by the production of stomach acid with the resulting burning sensation along the chest and the upper abdominal area. In many cases, heartburn commonly occurs with exercise and this can become an unpleasant experience that tends to discourage others from exercising because of the frequent episodes of an acid reflux attack or heartburn.
What happens during heartburn
Heartburn is a gastroesophageal reflux disease which is triggered by the reflux of acid from the stomach going back to the esophagus. It is more of a symptom as a disease per se and it is often triggered by different causes. Between the stomach and the esophagus is a valve that closes whenever foods are passed on from the mouth to the esophagus until reaching the stomach. The acid reflux occurs when this valve does not close.
There is a constellation of causes that may result to heartburn and this includes poor nutrition, lifestyle factors, disease and medications. Among the common irritants to the body that trigger a heartburn attack include the following:
- Alcohol intake
- Caffeine intake
- Medications like Ibuprofen and naproxen
- Carbonated drinks
- Foods that have high acid contents like grapefruit, tomato, pineapple and oranges
- Hiatal hernia
- Increased abdominal pressure during pregnancy
- Esophageal diseases like sarcoidosis and scleroderma
Heartburn is often accompanied by pain as the stomach acid refluxes into the esophagus. The pain is usually a burning sensation, but spasm and a sharp pain may also be experienced. Some people mistake a heartburn with a heart attack owing to its similar symptoms. The pain may be felt along the breast bone, but it can be felt also along the lower chest or upper abdominal area. The acid reflux may also be felt along the throat area. With sever reflux, the acid can damage the enamel of the teeth and may also result in tooth decay. These symptoms tend to worsen whenever a person bends or leans forward, after taking a heavy meal and when lying with the back flat on the surface.
Getting treated for a heartburn is needed especially when it frequently occurs. Untreated heartburn can cause stomach ulcers and tissue breakdown. In some instances, bleeding becomes apparent as well. Complications of the disease may result in Barret's esophagus, which is a form of cancer.
Why heartburn occurs during exercise
It is not normal to experience heartburn when you exercise. When heartburn occurs, it might indicate that the blood flowing to your digestive tract is decreased during exercise. As a result, the stomach may no longer perform its function normally as it should. When this happens, the valve that separates the stomach and the esophagus may become inefficient, which can result in the occurrence of a heartburn during exercise. It is also possible that foods can trigger an exercise induced heartburn. Common culprits of a heartburn, according to the American Gastroenterological Association are spicy and acidic foods which are taken before exercising. Heartburn is often triggered by exercise whenever the lower esophageal sphincter is very relaxed or too weak. The valve may become inefficient in preventing the reflux of the stomach acid back to the esophagus from the stomach. Because of extreme physical activity, the body becomes fatigued and unable to cope with physical exertion.
Activities that worsen a heartburn
There are physical activities that are associated with exercise that can further worsen the symptoms of heartburn. This includes bending over, lifting and lying down, and pushing weights. If a heartburn usually occurs when doing a particular exercise activity, it is important to lessen or avoid these activities and look for an alternative form of exercise that do not trigger a heartburn.
It is an improper attitude to avoid exercise altogether because of the occurrence of heartburn. Getting the body physically active remains to be important for a healthy lifestyle and quality of living. A body with adequate exercise tends to have a stronger immune system and it makes the body strong and healthy. There are forms of exercise that can worsen your heartburn, but all you can do is to avoid doing them and find one that will not trigger a heartburn. Tailoring your exercise according to your health needs and circumstances will help reduce the adverse effect of heartburn to exercise.
Preventing heartburn during exercise
There are many ways to prevent a heartburn during exercise. Sometimes, the condition just goes away on its own or may no longer occur while exercising if you are able to choose the kind of exercise that fits you.
- Choose less intense forms of exercise in order to prevent triggering the symptoms of heartburn. If weight lifting and intense physical exercise are a common trigger, you can opt for walking, jogging and stretching exercises in the alternative.
- No food intake at least two hours prior to exercising can also avoid heartburn because you have an empty stomach.
- Learn which foods are common triggers to your acid reflux and avoid eating them hours before your exercise schedule. Fatty and spicy foods should be avoided, as well as caffeinated and citrus drinks. Eating foods that are high in carbohydrates and low in protein can also help avoid a heartburn during exercise.
- Observe a regular schedule for eating when you know that you will be exercising.
- Keep a healthy digestion by drinking lots of fluids. Drinking water will hydrate the body which can reduce the risk of heartburn.
- Individuals with a chronic heartburn are often prescribed with medications by their doctor. The episode of heartburn should not prevent you from becoming healthy. Take your medication prior to exercise in order to keep yourself protected.
- Foods like yoghurt can tame your stomach, as well as bananas and whole grain cereals and toasts. Try to experiment which foods tend to soothe the stomach before an exercise and which tends to trigger the symptom.
- Use baking soda for temporary relief from heartburn. It can neutralize the stomach acid, however, it can increase the amount of salt in your diet which may not be good if you have an existing medical condition. It is always best to talk to your doctor.
- Take medications known to be effective in controlling or preventing heartburn during exercise. Antacid with calcium are over-the-counter medications that neutralizes the production of acid in the stomach.
When to see a doctor
If your heartburn continues to persist despite diet modification, reducing your physical exertion or modifying your exercise regimen, it is time to see a doctor and discuss your condition. Natural remedies for an acid reflux may no longer be effective for your condition and medication therapy may already be needed. Because the symptoms of a heartburn may mimic the symptoms of a heart attack, it is always best to have a regular check-up with your doctor as it may indicate a more serious condition. Ignoring your symptoms can result in more serious condition.
If you want to learn the effective way to relieve a heartburn, click here.