Can Exercise Make Heartburn Worse Or Are You Doing It Wrong?

If you have GERD, then you may have noticed that going for a walk or doing something strenuous, like lifting up something heavy or bending over, tends to immediately trigger a bout of heartburn. And keeping with this observation, it is very natural of you to ask – “Can exercise make heartburn worse?”

And the answer to that question is actually a paradoxical one on the face of it. Why? Because yes, exercise makes heartburn worsen but only when you have stomach acid present in your stomach during the process of digestion. At other times, exercise is actually good for you!

Photo Credit: Evil Erin via Compfightcc
Photo Credit: Evil Erin via Compfightcc

Let’s look at the bad first and then we’ll come to the good…

How exercise aggravates heartburn

Contrary to popular belief, GERD isn’t caused by excessive acid, but rather by a host of other conditions:

  • Too little acid and slow digestion.
  • Hiatal hernia, where a section of the stomach protrudes above the diaphragm, leading to reflux of acid.
  • A chronic inflammation of the stomach lining which inhibits acid production AND digestion.
  • An inappropriately lax Lower esophageal sphincter that normally should keep food and acid down, but actually allows them to move upwards instead.

Now, under any of these conditions, what exercise does is agitate the contents of your stomach. And just as a glass is likely to spill water when in an open car, your stomach is more likely to ‘spill’ the acid upwards into your esophagus, causing heartburn.

And that is the bad of it – that is one link…. But now let’s look at the good…

How exercise reduces heartburn!

Yes, exercise, when done right, can actually reduce heartburn. And there are a number for reasons for it:

  • Firstly, let’s look at the inflammation point. One of the major reasons for constant low-level inflammation of the stomach lining cells is bacteria called Helicobacter pylori. And one easy way to fight this bacteria and reduce the inflammation is by giving your immunity a boost. And exercise does just that!
  • Also it has been found, that for those people who seem to have an excessive amount of fat deposition around the abdominal area, this often acts like tight clothes, and aggravate acid reflux and heartburn. Maintaining a healthy exercise regimen can help you cut down on this fat.
Photo Credit: djwhelan via Compfightcc
Photo Credit: djwhelan via Compfightcc

However, when you are a GERD sufferer and you want to exercise, you must keep a few guidelines in mind. And those are:

  • Keep a gap of at least 2 hours between exercise time and meal times.
  • Try out exercises that are less likely to cause reflux – that is, exercises that need you to bend over double or those where you need to lie down flat.
  • Also avoid exercises were there are very jarring movements, because these cause further agitation in the stomach.

When you keep these guidelines in mind and then exercise, you are sure to see results that will make you not only feel better, but also feel healthier!

So, can exercise make heartburn worse? Yes it can, but it can also cure the condition! Just as long as you do it right, you can not only be rid of the heartburn, but also say hello to all the other health benefits that regular exercise brings with it!