Many cyclists are no stranger to gastrointestinal issues such as cramping, bloating, gas, acid reflux or heartburn. A lot of these issues can be linked back to the foods you consume and the position you are in during your rides.
In this article, we would like to take a closer look at one particular gastrointestinal issue, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), also known as acid reflux or heartburn, and what cyclists can expect from treatment for the condition.
What Is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or acid reflux, refers to a digestive condition that occurs when stomach acids, food, and liquid flow back up into the oesophagus. You may be diagnosed with GERD if you experience symptoms more than twice a week.
“This reflux irritates the lining of your oesophagus and is known as GERD. You may feel some discomfort, tightness or a burning sensation in your heart and chest, which is called heartburn. If left untreated, it may lead to serious complications.”
– Dr Ganesh Ramalingam of G & L Surgical Clinic
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.
How & Why Does GERD Affect Cyclists?
As mentioned, cyclists are familiar with gastrointestinal issues. Part of this can be linked with the position you are seated in during your rides. When you mount your bicycle, you are often bent at the torse, putting 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 ride, your body redirects your blood flow to what it deems to be a higher priority – your muscles. This means that your blood flow is being taken away from your digestive tract, affecting how your gut would generally function.
Can Cyclists Prevent GERD?
There are lifestyle changes that you can make as someone who is physically active such as a cyclist, to prevent the onset of GERD. These changes also help in alleviating the symptoms of acid reflux.
Food Types & Portions
Certain foods are associated with aggravating the onset of the symptoms of GERD. For example, foods that are acidic and spicy should be avoided. Excluding these foods from your diet can help prevent and reduce the symptoms of heartburn.
Additionally, doctors advise watching your portion sizes. Smaller portions will put less strain on your digestive tract. Remember that sticking to foods that are easy on the stomach before rides can benefit you in the long run.
Aside from watching the types and portions of your meals, cyclists should also note their meal timings to prevent acid reflux.
Since your blood flow is being directed to your muscles as you cycle, you want to ensure that your gut isn’t working too hard at digesting a meal. Spacing your meals further apart from your rides will give your body the time to efficiently and adequately digest food, reducing the chances of developing GERD.
Since the pressure and strain placed on your oesophageal sphincter are one of the leading causes of GERD, relieving or reducing this pressure will naturally aid in preventing and relieving symptoms.
You can achieve this by wearing looser or less restrictive clothes. Go for clothing that still optimises your ride while taking the pressure off your stomach, such as shorts without an added waistband.
How Is GERD Diagnosed?
If you find that you are suffering from symptoms of GERD more than twice a week, we recommend that you seek medical advice for the condition. A doctor may order investigative tests such as a gastroscopy, biopsy, CT scan, MRI, and other imaging and diagnostic tests.
A gastroscopy gives doctors a clearer view of your gastrointestinal tract and any issues that may be present. Additionally, biopsies will be collected during the procedure to allow doctors to test for cancer.
How Is GERD Treated?
Aside from recommending changes to your lifestyle to reduce the symptoms experienced, a doctor may prescribe medication to relieve your discomfort. These may include antacids, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), and H2 blockers.
However, in more severe cases of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), your doctor may recommend surgery as a treatment option. Surgery for GERD is known as Nissen Fundoplication and can be performed either traditionally (open surgery) or laparoscopically (keyhole surgery).
During a Nissen Fundoplication, a surgeon attaches a part of the stomach to the lower oesophageal sphincter to reduce the occurrence of acid reflux. This procedure has proven effective in treating GERD and preventing a recurrence of the condition.
Will Undergoing Surgery for Acid Reflux Affect My Lifestyle As a Cyclist?
A question that is sure to be on the mind of any cyclist suffering from regular occurrences of GERD is, ‘how long till I will be able to ride again?’. If cycling is your passion, then there is no doubt that you may have some concerns regarding undergoing surgery to treat your heartburn.
However, there is good news; doctors say that patients can typically resume light activity between one to two days after Laparoscopic Nissen Fundoplication. A laparoscopic procedure means that smaller incisions were made, therefore requiring a reduced recovery period.
You will typically need roughly one to two weeks before you can safely return to your routine rides and more strenuous activities.
To conclude, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease can prove to be a hindrance for cyclists. With symptoms such as chest pains, difficulty swallowing, and acid reflux, you might find that your rides are less than enjoyable.
However, there are ways that you can prevent and reduce the symptoms of GERD. Paying attention to your choice of meals, the times you eat, and the clothes you wear are all good ways to do so.
We advise that you seek medical attention if you continue to experience acid reflux even after making the necessary changes to your lifestyle. A doctor will be able to prescribe medication to alleviate your discomfort and recommend further treatment if needed.
In severe cases of GERD, Nissen Fundoplication may be recommended by your doctor. This surgery treats instances of acid reflux. If done laparoscopically, cyclists can rest assured that the recovery period stands at one to two weeks. Meaning that you can return to the roads in less than a month.
Should you suspect that you are suffering from Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, make an appointment at G & L Surgical Clinic for a consultation, don’t wait to treat the issue. You do not need to suffer during your rides!
Why Choose G & L Surgical Clinic for Your GERD Treatment?
Dr Ganesh at G & L Surgical Clinic strives to prioritise his patients’ recovery and comfort. Having had adequate experience in performing Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) surgeries for numerous patients for many years in Singapore.
Furthermore, the staff at G & L Surgical Clinic have been thoroughly and adequately trained to make your experience a comfortable and hassle-free one. Whether you intend to undergo our GERD treatments, procedures or other medical services in Singapore, you can rest assured that you will be properly and sufficiently cared for by trained professionals.
Organise a consultation with Dr Ganesh Ramalingam for further assistance on GERD treatments in Singapore.