View Full Version : swimming and acid reflux

staff writer
March 22nd, 2011, 01:20 PM

I am writing a piece for the next issue of SWIMMER on acid reflux. We'd love to hear from anyone who has experience with the condition and any success in managing it. Also, health professionals with opinions on current treatments are welcome to weigh in.

I'm happy to receive private messages, or you can post a reply here.

Thanks for helping,


March 22nd, 2011, 02:09 PM
Oh yeah, I would get it bad for sure, although it has been better of late. As someone who experienced it and as a health professional myself, here are my observations of what causes it;
1. The horizontal position
2. Any exercise on a full or partially full stomach runs that risk
3. Air in the stomach. This can occur when inhaling forcefully. Anyone with experience bag-mask ventilating a patient knows that you have to be careful not to bag too hard or air gets in the stomach. I would imagine the same thing can happen when inhaling forcefully. The extra air in the stomach in turn makes reflux/vomiting more likely. Same could be said for swallowed water also.
4. Caffeine. If I swim within 3-4 hours after drinking a good sized cup of coffee, I am toast. Caffeine is a refluxogenic substance. I'm always telling breastfeeding mom's to cool it with the caffeine (if they want peace and quiet).

I'm not sure exactly why my reflux has been a little better lately. I have made a conscious effort not to inhale so forcefully and deeply for one. I've been trying to swim before my morning coffee when possible. I've also been swimming vertically, surprisingly my times have gone down (J/K :)) I have not gotten to the point of taking an antacid, I'm really funny about taking medications. I can dish them out but I don't like to take them. I suppose if it gets bad enough and I have to make a choice between medications and potential esophageal cancer, I'll take the meds.

March 22nd, 2011, 04:22 PM
In normal life I have no issues with acid reflux, and never understood what people meant by heartburn as I'd never experienced it. However, since coming back to swimming a few years ago I found that when I am doing very hard/fast sets, where I am really straining, I do get occasional acid reflux. I talked to my doctor about it, and he explained that I was putting a lot of pressure on the stomach when I was straining to get every ounce out of my lactic acid-filled muscles at the end of hard sets. The sphincter muscle at the top of the stomach apparently couldn't stand up to this large abdominal pressure and forces some stomach acid up the esophagus. I haven't correlated it with caffeine, but I rarely eat for three or more hours before I swim so it's not associated with eating in my case.

March 23rd, 2011, 09:42 PM
Foods/Drinks that are associated with acid reflux:
Caffeine, citrus fruits, tomatoes, dairy products, alcohol, carbonated drinks

Most popular drug therapy:
Proton Pump Inhibitors & H2 Antagonists
These inhibits parietal cells in the stomach from producing stomach acid (hydrochloric acid). While these are effective treatment in reducing Acid Reflux symptoms, they also reduce your ability to digest food and destroy food-borne pathogens before they get absorbed. They also can increase or decrease the function of other medication you may be taken. If you're taking prescription medication regularly or have any major health concerns you should talk to your doctor or pharmacist to make sure there are not contraindications before taking these.
PPI ex. Prilosec (Omeprazole), very popular, available OTC or with Rx but not well metabolized by a large percentage pacific islanders and asians
H2 ex. Zantac and Pepsid

I've heard of some natural treatments including
- Apples (contain an enzyme that promote digestion)
- Almonds for immediate relief
- Garlic, taken daily
There are probably a lot more of these types of solutions (foods, herbs, teas, etc) out there too with more specific instructions. Maybe something to look into.

I'm currently a pharmacy student. Best suggestion is talk to your doctor for the most viable solution if it is a significant problem.

staff writer
March 24th, 2011, 12:35 PM
Thanks everyone for the input so far! Keep thoughts coming....

March 25th, 2011, 01:18 PM
I rarely get reflux because I tend to eat bland foods and drink easy-to-digest energy drinks (XOOD) before swimming. When I do get it, Prilosec works fairly quickly.

March 25th, 2011, 02:04 PM
I used to have acid reflux, and took Nexium for over a year and it seemed to be much better after that - even when I went off the medication. Some foods I try to avoid, as they almost always cause severe heartburm (Pepperoni, sausage, and believe it or not - peanut butter). When swimming I still get it occassionally, however, I have how to manage it where it is almost never an issue. An empty stomache seems to make mine worse. So I eat something light a couple of hours before I swim. If I am swimming in the morning, I will eat a piece of bread, or a half a cliff bar on the way to the pool. A full stomache is bad too. The most important thing for me is drinking water, the colder the better. When doing some interval sets, I take small sips of water at every rest - it seems to help more than anything in preventing and dealing with reflux while working out.

March 25th, 2011, 04:54 PM
Hi Laura: I have posted problems with VCD while swimming. My ENT doctor thinks that acid reflex may be why my vocal cords are closing and is treating with Dexilant. But, even after 2 months of med's, I still can not swim more than 100 meters freestyle with out gasping for air. I can do pull and kick laps with out a problem.

October 1st, 2016, 06:52 PM
Hi, I have been having acid reflux for about 6 months now, and I believe it started when I started an aerobic class in an indoor pool. I switched to an outdoor pool when I heard that the chlorine might be affecting me. I got it there too, but with both pools I did not get the acid reflux immediately, about within 8-20 hours. I thought the fumes from the chlorine was affecting my respiratory system. So I started swimming laps, and I don't get it when I swim, but I don't swim fast or for no more than 20 min., so I think it's from the fumes, not the prone position, but I could be wrong. I'm still trying to figure it out. Today the pool was filled with try outs, so I decided to run in the pool where they don't do laps, my head above water for 20 min., and within 7 hours I had acid reflux again? So again it's steering me towards believing the fumes are getting in my airways, and causing it. Pepsid Complete and aloe vera juice seems to help the most. Anyone experiencing what I am? Any help would be appreciated!!

October 8th, 2016, 07:07 PM
Eating later than 8pm and spicy food, tomato based foods,pizza,too much beer and going flat in bed and BAM I get it within 2 - 4 hours of sleep time!!

October 8th, 2016, 07:52 PM
If there are lots of chlorine fumes, they are concentrated right above the water (think less than an inch). After that level, they are there, but in significantly lower density. So if fumes were your problem, it should happen much, much more readily when you've swum, rather than with water aerobics or water jogging where your mouth & nose are a foot or more above the water.

It seems much more likely that your reflux is caused by the pressure of the water on your body plus jumping / jogging / jostling up and down with aerobics and jogging. And since your upper chest is at lower pressure (because it is in the air, not the water) at least part of the time, it would "encourage" stomach contents to move "up" where there is lower pressure. Why it happens 7 hours later, and not immediately? That I don't know...