Can Running Trigger Heartburn?

The first time heartburn disrupted my run, I called it a fluke. When it happened again, I began to wonder. Was this just coincidence, or was running actually causing my heartburn? Turns out, it is entirely possible for running to trigger heartburn symptoms, and that's exactly what happened to me.

The Running - Heartburn Connection

A lot of people are aware of the connection between the food we eat and heartburn, but exercise can also contribute to the problem. Studies show that high impact activities like running have the highest association with heartburn, as they relax the muscles of the lower esophagus. When these muscles loosen, food and stomach acid can travel up the esophagus, towards the throat. Abdominal exercises, along with certain stretches and yoga poses that put stress on your midsection, may also trigger symptoms.

Heartburn, or Something Else?

If you suspect heartburn is slowing down your run, the first thing you should do is talk to your doctor and rule out all other culprits. The symptoms of heartburn can mimic other problems like muscle strains and asthma, or even a more serious condition such as heart failure. That being said, the most common symptoms of heartburn include:

  • A sharp sensation in the chest area
  • Burning in the throat, esophagus, or chest
  • Regurgitation of acid into the throat or mouth
  • Bad taste in the throat or mouth

Preventing Heartburn While Running

The pain and irritation of heartburn can not only slow you down physically, but also distract you mentally, the last thing you want on a tough run. Here are some tips to avoid triggering heartburn the next time you lace up your running shoes:

  • Don't run on a full stomach. Try to eat at least an hour beforehand to avoid heartburn, and limit anything after that to a small snack, like a banana.
  • Foods to avoid on the day of your run: Spicy foods, citrus, acidic drinks, vinegar, chocolate, coffee, carbonated drinks, garlic, and onions.
  • Chew an over-the-counter antacid pill immediately before running if you find that heartburn is slowing you down.
  • Wear loose clothing, especially around the midsection. This can be difficult during the colder months, but try layering loose layers to stay warm.
  • If heartburn still bothers you, mix up your workouts with lower impact activities, like biking, swimming, or lifting weights, which tend to instigate heartburn less.

Running is tough enough without the aggravation of heartburn. These small modifications in my workout made a world of difference, and hopefully can do the same for you.

Sources: Web MD
New York Times
heartburnsymptoms.com
Mayo Clinic

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION:
The Contributor has no connection to nor was paid by the brand or product described in this content.

Published by Joe Zemla

I graduated from Rutgers University in 2004 with a degree in American Studies. Currently, I live in New Jersey and am employed as a behavior therapist at a school for individuals with autism, and a private...  View profile