How you can prevent injury-inducing and anxiety-based heartburn
Chances are, you know that anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. Having a little bit of anxiety now and then is normal, but if you’re constantly worrying about an injury that’s on the mend or fussing about an upcoming competition, you can spike your stress levels causing increased anxiety, which can then lead to heartburn.
Sure, it may not sound like a big deal. I mean, come on, you can pop an antacid and be done with it. And yet, it is. According to Dr. Niket Sonpal, an internist and gastroenterologist at Touro College of Medicine, heartburn or acid indigestion happens when stomach acid flows backward into the esophagus. Not only is it’s burning, gurgling presence sudden and painful, heartburn can feel like the air is being punched out of your lungs and it can cause hyperventilation, a tight feeling in your chest and even, upper abdominal pain—all of which can affect you on the ice and during dry land training, potentially causing an injury.
So while you may feel foot sure and carefree most of the time, should you experience the pressures of competition and want to keep your stress levels in check and your body in top form, put these tips into practice.
When it comes to working out, most of your gear is close fit to your body. Yet when you’re experiencing high levels of anxiety and stress, wearing loose fit clothing like a soft t-shirt and sweat pants is not only comfortable, it can help prevent heartburn. According to the National Heartburn Alliance, squeezing into too-tight clothing can increase abdominal pressure and may result in a heartburn attack. While most attacks are unexpected, some are excruciating and can cause you to double over, fall and potentially hurt yourself.
EAT LIGHT & WELL
“High-fat food can spell trouble if you’re prone to heartburn,” advises Dr. Sonpal. So put down the pepperoni and cheese pizza and choose healthy options, like lean meats, green vegetables and whole grains. People who suffer from heartburn often know the trigger foods that cause symptoms, says Dr. Sonpal. “Common foods include chocolates, caffeine and greasy foods. These foods relax the lower esophagus sphincter muscle, when this muscle is relaxed, the food will go back up and cause heartburn. Other foods that can trigger heartburn include acidic foods such as citrus fruits or carbonated beverages.” The National Heartburn Alliance recommends avoiding creamy salad dressings, as well as oil and vinegar, tomatoes, raw onions and other acid-aggravating ingredients.
Take the time to eat slowly and enjoy your food. Rushing through your meal or chewing with your mouth open can increase your chances of indigestion or heartburn. Linger over your food and allow yourself to feel full by giving your food time to digest.
Even if you have chronic heartburn, you don’t have to give up your favourite foods. You just have to choose wisely to save yourself some pain later on. For example, mashed potatoes can trigger heartburn, but baked potatoes may not. When it comes to dairy products, the less fat the better. “When choosing carbohydrates, multigrain bread or rolls and corn bread are good choices, while macaroni and cheese and other pasta dishes are known to trigger acid reflux,” says Dr. Sonpal.
A post-meal nap is always tempting and easy to do when you’re at competition, in a new city or country and don’t have a regular routine to fall back on. Napping is also an easy go-to when you’re feeling overwhelmed or your body is over tired from training. “. Instead of falling asleep, try going for a walk,” suggests Dr. Sonpal. “Especially sleeping right after eating can increase GERD symptoms.”
GET YOUR ZZZS
To avoid injury, your brain needs to function at full capacity when you’re training and competing, so that means getting a good night’s sleep every night. And yet, despite your best efforts, stress and anxiety can negatively affect your sleep. One way to help combat insomnia and uncomfortable heartburn is to maintain a consistent sleep schedule by getting up and going to bed at the same time every day.
CUT OFF YOUR WATER SUPPLY
As counter-intuitive as it may seem, considering you probably count how many glasses of water you drink each day, stopping your water intake at night-time is actually a good thing. Not only will you get a better night’s sleep as you won’t need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you’ll also halt heartburn. “Drinking and eating too close to bedtime can make acid reflux worse,” affirms Dr. Sonpal. “Stop eating and drinking, water included, three hours before bedtime.”
ACT LIKE A DETECTIVE
Keep a stress journal, writing down what you’re doing, thinking and feeling when you start to feel your stress and anxiety levels rising. Take note of what you ate and drank during the day, as well as how much sleep you had the night prior and any exercise or socialization that may have released some of the stress from your body. You’ll also want to highlight when you experience heartburn, what your symptoms are and how long they last. Then, show your coach and/or parents your journal entries so that together you can create an action plan.