As a cyclist, there’s no doubt that you’ve experienced at least some form of gastrointestinal discomfort from your rides. This may include bloating, gas, cramping, and acid reflux. While many of these side effects of a ride are often just an annoyance, frequent bouts of acid reflux may be indicative of a more significant issue such as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).
What is the link between cycling and acid reflux, how can you manage symptoms, and how are more persistent symptoms treated? We hope to help you understand what is going on with your body a little more and how to keep your gastrointestinal tract happy during rides.
What Is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, also known as GERD or acid reflux, is a digestive condition that occurs when stomach acids and food flow back up into one’s oesophagus. An individual is said to be suffering from GERD if they experience symptoms more than twice a week.
Some common symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease include the feeling of a lump in one’s throat, regurgitation of food or stomach acid, difficulty swallowing, and chest pains.
What Is the Link Between GERD and Cycling?
As a cyclist, the position you are seated in, bent at the torso, tends to put pressure on your oesophageal sphincter. This is a crucial point to note as the oesophageal sphincter is what separates the lower part of one’s swallowing tube from the stomach.
Additionally, as you cycle, your blood flow is being redirected to focus on the needs of your muscles which are hard at work. In other words, your blood flow is being taken away from your digestive tract, changing how the gut works typically.
How Can Cyclists Reduce Symptoms of GERD?
If you are an avid cyclist or even a leisurely rider, the symptoms of GERD can take away from the pleasure of a ride. We hope to help you understand how you can reduce and prevent the symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease as a cyclist.
The time at which you consume your meals plays an integral part in the symptoms you may be experiencing. As mentioned, your blood flow is being redirected to the muscles as you cycle as your body deems it a more crucial need as you exercise.
Therefore, spacing your meals further apart from your rides can allow your body the time it needs to digest and put less of a strain on your gut as you cycle.
Food Types & Portions
Certain foods are associated with worsening GERD. These include spicy foods, coffee, chocolate, and citrus foods. You should avoid these foods before your rides to lessen GERD symptoms as you cycle.
Additionally, take note of your portions. Smaller amounts of food will put less stress on your digestive tract. In essence, stick to foods that are easier for your body to process and give yourself ample time to digest before you begin a ride.
Now that you understand that the pressure and strain placed on your oesophagal sphincter are one of the leading causes of GERD, relieving or reducing this pressure will naturally do the same for your symptoms.
You can achieve this by wearing looser or less compressive clothes. Opt for clothing that still optimises your ride while taking the strain off your stomach, such as shorts without an added waistband.
Along with the well-known dangers of smoking, it can also aggravate and worsen the symptoms of GERD. Smoking relaxes the oesophageal sphincter, allowing acid and food back into the oesophagus from the stomach.
By putting yourself in a more upright position, you reduce the strain on your torso. This can help reduce the symptoms of GERD. Changing your riding position can be achieved by adjusting the height of the seat on your bicycle.
Should Cyclists See a Doctor About GERD?
If you find yourself experiencing the symptoms of GERD, such as acid reflux and difficulty swallowing more than twice a week, even after having made the changes we’ve mentioned above, you should seek the advice of a medical professional.
A doctor will be able to help you further understand your symptoms and recommend a treatment plan suited to the needs of your active lifestyle as a cyclist.
Common treatment options may include antacids, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), and H2 receptor blockers. Surgery to treat GERD may also be recommended in more severe cases. The surgery often used to treat Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease is known as Nissen Fundoplication. It can be performed either traditionally (open surgery) or laparoscopically.
Remember to speak to your doctor about any concerns you may have if surgery is recommended. They will be able to explain the benefits, risks, and downtime required should you undergo anti-reflux surgery.
In conclusion, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD can be a pesky occurrence for cyclists, making it difficult for them to enjoy a ride.
Caused by a lack of blood flow to the digestive tract and pressure on the oesophageal sphincter, GERD often presents as symptoms such as acid regurgitation, chest pains, and trouble swallowing. If you experience these symptoms more than twice a week, it could be an indication that you are suffering from GERD.
There are measures that cyclists can take to reduce the symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. For example, a change in meal timings, the type of food consumed, one’s choice of exercise attire, and the position of your body as you ride can all impact GERD.
However, should you find that despite making these lifestyle changes, the symptoms of GERD are not alleviated, you should seek medical advice. A doctor may be able to prescribe medication to treat acid reflux.
Alternatively, a doctor will be able to determine if your case of GERD is more severe and may require surgical intervention such as Nissen Fundoplication. Should you suspect that you are suffering from Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, make an appointment at G & L Surgical Clinic for a consultation.