How to Exercise Safely with GERD

Exercise is a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle, but for individuals dealing with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), physical activity can sometimes be a double-edged sword. GERD, often characterized by heartburn and acid reflux, can make exercising a difficult activity due to the potential increase of symptoms. However, with the right approach, it’s possible to enjoy the benefits of exercise while managing GERD effectively.

Understanding GERD

GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a chronic condition in which stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing irritation and inflammation. This backward flow of acid is often due to a weakened lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscle that normally prevents acid from entering the esophagus. Common symptoms of GERD include heartburn, regurgitation of food or liquid, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, and a chronic cough.

Exercising with GERD: What Happens?

When individuals with GERD participate in physical activity, several factors can contribute to the worsening of symptoms. Intense exercise can lead to increased intra-abdominal pressure, which may push stomach contents upward and worsen acid reflux. Additionally, certain types of exercise, such as high-impact activities or exercises that involve bending over or lying down, can further aggravate symptoms by allowing acid to move more easily into the esophagus.

Connection Between Exercise and GERD

While exercise is crucial for overall health, certain types of exercise are more likely to trigger GERD symptoms. High-impact activities like running or jumping can jostle the stomach and promote acid reflux. Similarly, exercises that involve bending at the waist, such as sit-ups or leg lifts, can put pressure on the stomach and encourage acid to flow back up into the esophagus.

On the other hand, low-impact exercises like walking, cycling, or swimming are generally better tolerated by individuals with GERD. These activities are less likely to exacerbate symptoms and may even provide relief by promoting better digestion and reducing stress, which can contribute to GERD.

Tips for Exercising with GERD

  • Wear Loose Clothing: Tight-fitting workout attire can put pressure on the abdomen, worsening GERD symptoms. Opt for loose, comfortable clothing that doesn’t constrict the stomach.
  • Don’t Eat Directly Before Exercising: Allow at least two hours to pass between eating a meal and engaging in physical activity. Exercising on a full stomach can increase the likelihood of acid reflux.
  • Watch Your Diet: Choose foods that are less likely to trigger acid reflux, such as complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and non-acidic fruits and vegetables. Avoid spicy or acidic foods, as well as large meals before exercise.
  • Eat Slowly: Eating too quickly can lead to overeating and increase pressure on the stomach, promoting acid reflux. Take your time to chew food thoroughly and savor each bite.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink water before, during, and after exercise to stay hydrated. However, be mindful not to drink too much, as excessive fluid intake can worsen GERD symptoms.
  • Avoid Straws: Drinking through a straw can introduce air into the stomach, leading to bloating and increased pressure that may worsen GERD symptoms.
  • Maintain an Upright Position: Avoid lying flat or bending over immediately after eating or during exercise. Maintain an upright posture to prevent acid from flowing back into the esophagus.
  • Modify Your Workout: If certain exercises consistently trigger GERD symptoms, consider modifying your workout routine. Focus on low-impact activities that are gentler on the stomach, and avoid exercises that involve intense abdominal contractions or positions that promote acid reflux.

How Chiropractors Can Help

Chiropractors may offer relief for some individuals suffering from GERD by focusing on spinal alignment and nerve function. Chiropractic care can address underlying issues that may contribute to symptoms. By adjusting the spine, particularly in the thoracic region, chiropractors aim to alleviate pressure on nerves that control digestive function, potentially reducing instances of acid reflux. Additionally, chiropractic adjustments may help improve posture and promote better alignment of the digestive organs, which can enhance overall gastrointestinal health. 

Exercising with GERD requires careful consideration and planning to minimize symptoms and maximize the benefits of physical activity. By following these tips and choosing exercises that are compatible with GERD, individuals can maintain a healthy lifestyle while effectively managing their condition. Your chiropractor can help with treatments and suggestions on the exercises that will be best for you. 

If you’re ready to experience the benefits of chiropractic care for GERD, schedule a chiropractic appointment online or call us today.

Thompson Chiropractic & Wellness proudly serves Dothan, Headland, Midland City, Wicksburg, Daleville, Enterprise, and the surrounding areas of Wiregrass and Houston County, Alabama.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.

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Dr. Scot Thompson

Dr. Scot Thompson, a compassionate chiropractor in Dothan, believes in fostering well-being through natural methods, offering friendly and family-oriented care to all ages, and teaching communities that true health starts from within.


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