Patients with acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may not know that exercise can aggravate their symptoms.
However, pharmacists should not steer patients with acid reflux or GERD away from working out, especially because moderate exercise can be a good way to treat the condition.
Pharmacists and patients alike should recognize the 2 main factors that contribute to exercise-induced GERD.
First, the specific type of exercise matters. In a 2009 study, researchers reviewed available medical literature from 1999 through 2008 that described associations among obesity, dietary habits, physical activity, GERD, and recommended changes.
The first indicator of GERD was obesity
, but more importantly, the researchers found that moderate physical exercise appeared to be beneficial for GERD patients. However, vigorous exercise such as forceful running wasn’t good for the patients. They were better off with moderate or less agitating exercises, such as pedaling on a stationary bike.
Body position is the second factor that contributes to exercise-induced GERD. For instance, patients’ GERD risk increases when performing exercises that involve lying flat, such as bench presses and leg curls.
In another 2009 study, researchers in Hawaii tested more than 250 surfers and non-surfers for GERD based on their hypothesis that paddling in the prone position on a hard surfboard surface could lead to increased intra-abdominal pressure, and therefore GERD.
The researchers observed that GERD risk was significantly higher in short-board surfers than in non-surfers. GERD was also more prevalent in short-board surfers than long-board surfers (28% vs. 12%, respectively).
As the frequency and duration of the surfing sessions increased, the prevalence of GERD increased, the researchers found.