Getting a heartburn in the middle of a run sucks.
But, if you’re prone to reflux episodes and are keen on running regularly, you know too well that running is prime time for heartburn flare-ups.
In today’s post, I’ll cover all you need to know about running when you have acid reflux.
And don’t worry, it’s not a sign of heart attack like the rumor.
By the end, you’ll learn:
- What is acid reflux?
- Main symptoms associated with heartburn
- What’s causing heartburn during running
- How to treat heartburn during a run
- How to prevent heartburns while exercising
Note – check with your doctor before you apply any of the advice shared here.
I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on the internet.
Heart Burn While Running Explained
First off, to know how to properly manage acid reflux while running, it’s key to understand what’s causing it.
As the name implies, heartburn is a discomfort turned into a pricky or burning sensation in the chest area but has nothing to do with your heart.
Usually, you can’t point it specifically. It’s just there in the middle of your chest, sometimes your diaphragm.
So, don’t worry.
Your heart is not on fire.
The Process Of A Heartburn
Medical term known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, (GERD), is a condition in which acids used for digestion in the stomach sneaks into the esophagus—the food pipe
Your GI tract lining are not all the same.
Some properties not designed to bare the acidity, resulting in irritation.
The Main Symptoms
Some of the most common symptoms associated with acid reflux include:
- Burning sensation radiating up from your sternum
- A dry cough or hoarseness followed by discomfort in your throat (acid or bitter taste)
- Dysphagia—difficulty swallowing
- Irritation of the esophagus
- Increased asthma symptoms
- Sporadic heartbeat during exercise
- Nausea and vomiting
- A sensation of a lump in the throat
- Bloated stomach
Causes of Heartburn While Running
The following consists of the most common triggers of exercise-induced heartburn, according to the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA).
Weakness in The Muscle
Heartburn happens when a band of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus, known as a lower esophageal sphincter (LES), becomes too weak, too relaxed, or open inappropriately, giving space for stomach acid to travel upward into the esophagus.
Running and other forms of exercise can trigger heartburn if the lower esophageal sphincter is too relaxed or weak, especially exercises that require a lot of abdominal work.
Foods to Blame
You’re more likely to suffer a heartburn flare-up after eating certain foods.
These mainly consist of acidic foods like coffee, orange juice, alcohol, spicy foods, high fiber, gassy food like sodas, and overly processed foods.
The logic here, when your body needs to process more, they will produce more gastric acid.
Why Running Causing Heart Burn?
Acid reflux can be a painful condition while running and working out—especially due to the fact that high impact exercise, running for example, often makes it worse.
All that high impact movement, core activation, and the jostling manhandle the intestines, forcing stomach content to escape.
The risks of this occurring depend on many factors, such as your training intensity and the type of food consumed in the hours before the workout.
But just because you get heartburn during a run doesn’t mean that you should stop exercising altogether.
Running, and exercise, in general, can reduce the risks of developing GERD by getting in shape and helping maintain a healthy weight.
The key is to make the right adjustments and take proper precautions.
That’s where the rest of this article comes in handy.
How To Treat And Prevent Heart Burn When Running
Here are some of the precautions you need to take to keep this unwanted guest away from your premises.
Avoid the Four C’s
Trigger food can boost acid secretion, limit stomach emptying, or compromise the LES—all of which can set the stage for heartburn.
As a general guideline, avoid the Four C’s.
This includes Citrus, Caffeine, Carbonated foods, and Chocolate.
You should also avoid any fatty food rich before a hard run.
I’d also recommend that you keep a food journal for a few weeks.
At least two weeks, since it’s also the proper timing for gastric acid adaptation time towards treatment or changing lifestyle.
Inside of it, keep track of the times you eat, the food content, speed/mileage, and whether you experience any stomach issues.
Whether it’s premature fatigue, IG issues, stomach discomfort, or heartburn, what you eat just before going for a run impacts your running performance.
I can’t emphasize this enough.
So what’s the solution?
Eat something that’s low in protein and fat while high in the right carbs.
But all things considered, the best (diet) course of action is to experiment with different foods till you find a match.
Then, stick with that for the long haul.
Want a fast source of energy before a run?
Try any of the following:
- Eggs on wholegrain toast,
- Strawberries with honey,
- Greek yogurt,
- Banana with peanut butter.
- A small bowl of whole-grain cereal.
These snacks should provide you with enough energy without upsetting your stomach.
Time it Right
The less stuff you have sloshing around your stomach while running, the better.
In fact, an empty stomach causes no reflux.
For this reason, avoid eating anything heavy two to three hours before a run.
This should give your stomach enough time to process the food.
You should also experiment with how long before a run to consume the right snack and/or meal.
It could be an hour, two hours, three hours before a workout.
Drink Lots of Water
Proper water intake naturally cleanses your esophagus, and might even help prevent, or at the very least, soothe the symptoms in case of heartburn during a run.
Just make sure not to drink too much.
Having too much water in your stomach is as bad eating a large meal just before a workout.
Moderation is key.
I would rather recommend normal water instead of sports drinks or ion water.
They might be too acid for your stomach.
Don’t take my word for it.
Research has reported that heartburn prone athletes suffered from more flare-ups than those who drank water when they had a sports drink during training.
Sometimes, natural remedies and lifestyle change can’t help much.
Give medication a try, start with OTC first.
Some of the over-the-counter drugs, such as Antacid or Simethicone, can be used to quickly stop the acid in its track and bring some relief.
If the meds feel like too much, start out with two weeks of moderate intake so your gut linings can adapt well.
Wear Loose Fitting Clothes
Runners swear by compression gear, whether it’s tights or any other form-fitting clothing, but such outfits often may prove problematic if you’re prone to GERD.
Wearing tight clothing puts pressure on your abdomen and may force stomach content to climb up into your esophagus.
It may also impede proper food digestion.
This “unprocessed” foods contribute to acid reflux.
Add to this the jostling motion of running and you got yourself a recipe for disaster.
As a rule, choose loose-fitting running shorts, shirts, and other types of running clothing that gives your body enough room to encourage proper digestive function.
Don’t wait for it.
Or, at the very least, consider loosening up a little and choosing running gear that doesn’t constrict your chest, stomach, and waist.
Seek Medical Help
If changing your lifestyle habits and taking OTC drugs, don’t get your workout-induced heartburn under control, consult your doctor.
For more severe symptoms, you might need a prescription from your doctor.
This is especially the case when suffering from intense chest pain, whether it’s running-induced or not.
In some cases, heartburn is alike heart-attack pain.
Your doctor may prescribe the combination between antacids (such as calcium chewable tablets), proton pump inhibitors (like omeprazole), H2 blockers (like ranitidine and cimetidine).
Stick with this at least two weeks straight before you off all at once.
This way, you may lower your risk of relapse.
In some cases, taking such medication a day before a long run or race may help ease your symptoms—or prevent them altogether.
Just keep in mind that there are downsides to any form of medication.
Only to use in case of emergencies.
Run, Forrest, Run!!
DO NOT stop running.
Do not let heartburn interfere with your consistency.
In fact, you stand a lot to gain by running with heartburn than living a heartburn-free life as a couch potato.
As you already know, running has a lot to offer.
It can help you get in shape, relieve stress, improve stamina, and so on.
Thank you for reading my post.
Feel free to leave your comments and questions below.