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Can Moderate Exercise Actually Eliminate Acid Reflux?

August 12, 2010 | 114,888 views
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man exercising on a stationary bikeFor people with chronic heartburn, too much running and jumping can induce acid reflux. However, the right type of exercise may actually improve the condition.

Short bouts of fairly moderate exercise at least a couple of times a week can cut the risk of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, in part because it reduces body mass index.

The New York Times reports:

"... [T]he specific exercise is crucial. Scientists found that aerobic exercises with the highest 'agitation of the body,' like vigorous running, consistently induced acid reflux, even in people who did not have chronic heartburn ... 

Another factor is body position. Bench presses, leg curls or any other exercise that involves lying flat sharply raise the risk of acid reflux."

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Heartburn, a burning sensation that radiates up from your stomach to your chest and throat, is one of the major symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Aside from being uncomfortable, it can become severe enough to interfere with your daily routine.

Contrary to popular belief, GERD is NOT a disease of too much acid being produced. Rather, it is commonly related to hiatal hernia -- a condition in which the acid is coming out of your stomach, where it's supposed to remain. 

After food passes through your esophagus into your stomach, a muscular valve called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) closes, preventing food or acid from moving back up. Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when the LES relaxes inappropriately, allowing acid from your stomach to flow (reflux) backward into your esophagus.

What Types of Activities Make Heartburn Worse?

As you might suspect, vigorous jumping, bouncing, running and other activities that cause agitation of your body can make heartburn worse, simply because it makes it easier for your stomach acid to move into your esophagus. For this reason, vigorous aerobics and other agitating exercise routines may exacerbate your symptoms, especially if you eat within two hours of your workout.

That said, heartburn also tends to flare up during other routine activities as well, such as:

  • After eating a heavy meal
  • Bending over
  • Lifting
  • Lying down, especially when lying on your back

If you know you have GERD, or even if you suffer from heartburn only occasionally, it makes sense to limit these activities, especially shortly after eating, or at least tailor them so they're less likely to cause a problem.

For instance, by eating smaller portions at your meals it can help you to avoid overeating, which is a major trigger for heartburn. Likewise, if you wait two or three hours after dinner before lying down in bed, it will also give you some relief.

When you do lie down, elevating the head of your bed may make you more comfortable, as can squatting down when you need to pick something up (instead of bending over).

And just as you can modify these common activities so they don't make your heartburn worse, you can modify your exercise program to follow suit as well.

Exercise is Essential, Even if You Have Heartburn

One of my top recommendations for treating heartburn and GERD is to implement an exercise program.

Physical activity is an important way to improve your body's immune system, which is imperative to fight off all kinds of infections. What does this have to do with GERD?

In the early '80s, an Australian physician named Dr. Barry Marshall did some pioneering work on acid reflux. He discovered that an organism called helicobacter pylori (initially called campylobacter) causes a chronic low-level inflammation of your stomach lining, and is responsible, or at least a major factor, for producing many of the symptoms of acid reflux.

Exercise is just one of the natural ways you can help to boost your immune system and help eradicate the helicobacter bacteria.

It's also an important method to keep your weight in check, and since excess weight can actually push your stomach up and cause acid to back up into your esophagus, staying trim is essential if you want to avoid heartburn.

Further, exercise is one of the key ways to protect your body from chronic disease or disability, and it's absolutely essential if you want to stay healthy and happy well into old age.

So giving up on exercise just to prevent heartburn is not a wise option -- and fortunately, it's far from your only option.

If you notice that your heartburn worsens after vigorous exercise, first make sure you are not eating within two hours of your workout. Next, tailor your exercise program to avoid jarring movements until you're able to implement my recommendations below, which will help you to eliminate GERD at its source.

You can get a phenomenal workout using a stationary bike or elliptical machine, while still avoiding the agitation that may make heartburn worse. In fact, one of my favorite ways to perform my Peak Fitness Program is using a recumbent bike, which is an ideal choice for those of you with chronic heartburn or GERD.

I have been an avid exerciser for over four decades and have been using the Peak Fitness Program since earlier this year. I am quite confident now in my belief that it is absolutely essential if you are older than 35 or 40 years old.

Your growth hormone levels start to drop dramatically at that age and that is very powerfully related to how healthy you are. I know the system works, as I have been able to raise my growth hormone without supplements or IV injections to levels of a child.

So I strongly recommend everyone do one or two Sprint 8 workouts a week.

Why Heartburn Drugs are Not a Wise Solution

If you have heartburn, you've likely been offered a prescription for a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) like Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid. PPIs suppress the production of stomach acid, and while there are severe cases when they may be warranted, as many as 95 percent of heartburn cases are actually caused by too LITTLE stomach acid, rather than too much.

So taking these drugs will only WORSEN your condition.

In addition, reducing acid in your stomach diminishes your primary defense mechanism for food-borne infections, which will increase your risk of food poisoning.

PPI drugs are also fraught with serious side effects, including:

  • Pneumonia
  • Bone loss
  • Hip fractures
  • Infection with Clostridium difficile, a harmful intestinal bacteria

You'll also develop both tolerance and dependence on them, so unfortunately you can't stop taking them without suffering repercussions, which may be worse than your original symptoms.

Ready to Get Rid of Heartburn for Good?

GERD is another example of a painful condition that can be relieved in the majority of cases by making relatively simple lifestyle changes, including:

Consume Enough Probiotics

This will help balance your bowel flora, which can help eliminate helicobacter bacteria naturally. It will also aid in proper digestion and assimilation of your food.

Ideally, you'll want to get your probiotics from fermented foods. One of my favorites is natto, but there are many other food products that are excellent choices for natural probiotics, such as fermented vegetables and kefir, a fermented milk drink made from RAW milk.

Another option is taking a high-quality probiotic supplement. The one I use personally contains the Bacillus Coagulans strain, which has been proven highly effective. It's also the one we recommend in my Natural Health Center.

Eliminate Food Triggers

Food allergies can be a problem, so you'll want to completely eliminate items such as caffeine, alcohol, and all nicotine products.

Increase Your Body's Natural Production of Stomach Acid

Like I said earlier, heartburn/GERD is not caused by too much acid in your stomach -- it's usually a problem with too little acid. One of the simplest strategies to encourage your body to make sufficient amounts of hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) is to consume enough of the raw material.

One of the most basic food items that many people neglect is a high-quality sea salt (unprocessed salt), such as Himalayan salt. Not only will it provide you with the chloride your body needs to make hydrochloric acid, it also contains over 80 trace minerals your body needs to perform optimally, biochemically.

Take a Hydrochloric Acid Supplement

Another option is to take a betaine hydrochloric supplement, which is available in health food stores without prescription. You'll want to take as many as you need to get the slightest burning sensation and then decrease by one capsule.

This will help your body to better digest your food, and will also help kill the helicobacter and normalize your symptoms.

Modify Your Diet 

Eating large amounts of processed foods and sugars is a surefire way to exacerbate acid GERD, as it will upset the bacterial balance in your stomach and intestine.

Instead, you'll want to eat a lot of vegetables, and high quality, organic, biodynamic, and locally grown foods.

Optimize Your Vitamin D levels

As I've mentioned many times in the past, vitamin D is essential, and it's essential for this condition as well because there's likely an infectious component causing the problem.

Once your vitamin D levels are optimized, you're also going to optimize your production of 200 antimicrobial peptides that will help your body eradicate any infections that shouldn't be there.

You'll want to make sure your vitamin D level is about 60 ng/ml. You can increase your vitamin D levels through appropriate amounts of sun exposure, the use of a safe tanning bed, or, if neither of those are available, an oral vitamin D3 supplement.

For more natural tips, I would also encourage you to read natural health pioneer Dr. Jonathan Wright's excellent book Your Stomach: What is Really Making You Miserable and What to Do About It.

If You're Already Taking Heartburn Drugs …

Remember that you should NEVER stop taking proton pump inhibitors cold turkey. You have to wean yourself off them gradually or else you might experience a severe rebound of your symptoms, and the problem may end up being worse than before you started taking the medication.

Ideally, you'll want to get a lower dose than you're on now, and then gradually decrease your dose. Once you get down to the lowest dose of the proton pump inhibitor, you can start substituting with an over-the-counter H2 blocker like Tagamet, Cimetidine, Zantac, or Raniditine.

Then gradually wean off the H2 blocker over the next several weeks.

While you wean yourself off these drugs (if you're already on one), you'll want to start implementing the lifestyle modification program above, as this is what can eliminate this condition once and for all.

[+] Sources and References