Acid reflux (gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD) is usually blamed on being overweight or eating the wrong type of food.
But a new study in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology reveals two somewhat similar activities that affect this condition.
Strangely, one can heal it while the other worsens it.
GERD is a common condition where stomach acid frequently flows back into your esophagus, which connects your mouth and stomach. This backwash can irritate its lining and lead to discomfort.
Barrett’s esophagus, on the other hand, is a more serious condition where the esophagus lining changes as a result of such acid, potentially leading to cancer. Both conditions are influenced by genetic and lifestyle factors, but the exact nature of these influences has been unclear.
The authors of this study embarked on a mission to decipher the relationship between physical and occupational activities and the occurrence of GERD and Barrett’s esophagus. To achieve this, they employed a research method called Mendelian randomization.
In this type of study, researchers use genetic variations that have previously been connected with different types of physical activity, after which they check which health outcomes develop in people genetically predisposed to those activities.
Data for the study was gathered from reputable sources. Information on genes linked to physical and occupational activities came from the extensive UK Biobank and the GWAS catalog, while data on GERD and BE were extracted from a meta-analysis.
The results were enlightening. The analysis pointed towards a causal relationship between strenuous sports or other forms of exercise and a lowered risk of GERD and Barrett’s esophagus. This suggests that engaging in vigorous physical activity could be a protective factor against these conditions.
However, the study also uncovered a darker side of physical exertion. It found that certain types of occupational-related physical activities were, in fact, risk factors for GERD and Barrett’s esophagus. These activities included heavy manual or physical work, shift work, and jobs that involve prolonged periods of walking or standing.
So, if you are worried about the effects of your strenuous high-intensity running, cycling, or rowing, you can continue these sports programs without any concern, since they can help you avoid acid reflux.
But if you work in jobs requiring heavy labor, shift work, or standing work, you must attend to healthy dieting and a good physical exercise program to undo the potentially harmful effects of your job.