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Exertion-Associated GastroEsophageal Reflux

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Updated June 10, 2014

Experts are discussing another condition that triggers heartburn: Exertion-Associated GastroEsophageal Reflux (EAGER). These episodes of heartburn are caused by physical activity. With many Americans thinking about their springtime exercise programs, this news may derail many of their efforts.

Pepcid sponsored an online survey of 1,000 Baby Boomers. The results of this survey showed that nearly 40% of heartburn sufferers experience heartburn during exercise. In the group of heartburn sufferers who experience heartburn weekly, more than 2 out of every 5 heartburn sufferer stopped being physically active because of EAGER.

Further statistics from the survey include:

  • 75% of men and women age 35-60 experience heartburn at least occasionally
  • 31% report weekly bouts of heartburn
  • Occasional heartburn sufferers will, on average, experience heartburn 15% of the time they exercise
  • Weekly heartburn sufferers will likely experience heartburn 45% of the time they exercise.
  • 16 million Americans have their exercise interrupted by heartburn
  • Persons who do not suffer from heartburn exercise an average of 106 times per year
  • Heartburn sufferers exercise an average of 85 times per year

Dr. Steven Peikin, Professor of Medicine at Robert Woods Johnson Hospital, developed the term EAGER as a way to refer to this condition. In a press release he is quoted as saying "Unfortunately, as this survey shows, many of these same people will suffer from EAGER, which in turn discourages them from continuing their exercise or activity program. In a sense, it's really a double-whammy. People try to be more healthy by exercising more, but end up inducing EAGER which not only causes discomfort but also takes them off the road to better overall health."

Dr. Peiking further added, "Since exercise and exertion-related activities cause the contents of the stomach, including acidic digestive juices, to move around vigorously inside the stomach walls, it makes sense that such activity could encourage the onset of heartburn. The results of this survey further confirm the relationship between exercise, exertion and heartburn."

What can be done to ease Exertion-Associated GastroEsophageal Reflux?

There are specific steps heartburn sufferers can take to ease this condition.
  • Wait at least an hour after eating before you begin to exercise
  • Avoid fatty or greasy foods
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Take an over-the-counter antacid before exercising. It may be best to use an antacid that also contains an acid reducer
  • Try a less jarring exercise
      Jarring exercises, such as jogging, can increase your chances of suffering from heartburn.
      Less jarring exercises, such as riding a bike or walking, can produce fewer acid reflux symptoms.

You can read the press release concerning this survey and Exertion-Associated GastroEsophageal Reflux (EAGER).

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