Maintaining regular exercise contributes to improved overall health, helping to control weight and strengthening muscle, including your heart. Yet if you suffer from acid reflux, you may find that exercise worsens the condition. The increased stomach acid may cause heartburn and even chest pain, making physical activity uncomfortable. However, there are ways to control the effects of stomach acid during and after exercise.
During periods of strenuous exercise, your body directs blood away from your stomach and into the muscles being worked. This lack of blood hampers stomach and intestine function. As a result, food takes longer to digest. The longer food remains in your stomach, the more acid gets produced. Exercise may also apply pressure on your stomach and place your body in awkward positions, increasing the chances of the acid escaping up your esophagus.
Waiting at least an hour after eating can help alleviate the risks of increased stomach acid during exercise. Exercising can cause recently eaten foods to slosh around in your stomach and come back up your throat. Also pay attention to the types of exercises performed. Situps and movements placing added stress on your abdomen can force acid up your esophagus, as can any exercises in which your body is bent at the waist or hangs upside down. If problems with stomach acid continue, focus on keeping your body vertical during workouts.
Eating certain foods before exercise may also increase stomach acid production. Foods high in fat take longer to digest, resulting in more acid. Acid-producing foods include citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate, mints and caffeine, so avoid those before exercising. Carbohydrates digest much faster than fats, allowing them to pass through your digestive system with minimal stomach acid produced. That's one reason athletes often eat a lot of carbs before events.
While exercising, remember to drink plenty of fluids. Not only do fluids prevent dehydration and maintain proper muscle function, they also help carry food through your digestive system. Moving food out of your stomach reduces the amount of acid produced. Avoid drinking soft drinks, citrus fruit juices and any form of caffeine, because they contribute to stomach acid. Instead, always hydrate with water during exercise to limit acid reflux.