Why athletes get heartburn

Even if you eat clean and work out regularly, you may still battle heartburn. In fact, athletes may be more susceptible. Exercise may encourage the acid from your stomach to flow back to the esophagus, triggering symptoms. It could also be that increased pressure on your abdomen, perhaps due to more core muscle tone, may facilitate reflux, says Amindra Arora, M.D., a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic.

What’s more, some of your wellness habits may also be to blame. Here, five surprising culprits—and what you can do to calm the burn.

Culprit: You usually take a pain reliever after a workout. 

Taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen, for your sore muscles too often can lead to heartburn and stomach ulcers, says Benjamin Domb, M.D., sports medicine specialist and orthopaedic surgeon in Chicago. To counteract this side effect, try using an antacid medication, such as Prilosec, Zantac, Pepcid, or Protonix.

Culprit: A nighttime snack helps you sleep. 

Having protein and healthy fat in the evening can help you slumber soundly. But don’t time it too close to bedtime: Lying prone allows your stomach acid to creep back up. Close your kitchen at least 30 minutes before you hit the sack.

Culprit: You sip a brew post-workout. 

Beer can weaken your lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscle between your stomach and esophagus. If you’re battling chronic heartburn, you may need to skip drinking alcohol.

Culprit: No meal is complete without hot sauce. 

Spicy foods, citrus, and peppermint are heartburn triggers. They may slow the digestive process, increase stomach acid, or relax the LES. Fatty dishes, caffeinated drinks, and tomatoes may also be culprits. To figure out what sets off your discomfort, keep track of what you eat and how it makes you feel.

Culprit: You fuel up before exercise. 

A pre-workout snack is usually a smart idea. But reflux is a regular problem for you, may want to steer clear of trigger foods or avoid eating anything two hours beforehand. High-impact, high-intensity activities where you bend, lift, strain, or squat (think: aerobics and heavy weightlifting) may compress your abdomen, worsening your heartburn, says David Greenwald, M.D., the director of clinical gastroenterology and endoscopy at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

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