Dear Lucy: When working out, especially when doing anything that includes jumping, I end up tossing my cookies, and then I feel better right away. If I continue working out, I feel like throwing up again within 10 minutes or less. This happens whether my stomach is empty or full. If my stomach’s empty, I vomit up a clear fluid at first, but after a few minutes, I get a bright yellow liquid material coming out. Can you help me determine why my stomach is so easily upset and what I can do to fix it? —(up)Chuck
Dear Chuck: Lucy sympathizes with your predicament. At the same time, she hopes not to find herself working out next to you at the gym before you get this problem under control. With some sense of urgency, Lucy brought your problem to MIT Medical gastroenterologist Richard Gardner, M.D.
Gardner tells Lucy he believes you may be suffering from exercise-induced acid reflux. “Vigorous exercise, especially if it includes jumping and bending over, may result in reflux of stomach contents—acid and sometimes bile—into the esophagus,” Gardner explains. “Some individuals are more prone to reflux due to a weak sphincter muscle between the stomach and esophagus.” This tendency may be increased when one exercises soon after eating, he adds.
Acid reflux is a potentially serious problem, Gardner emphasizes. “Individuals with significant acid reflux may irritate and damage the lining of the esophagus, resulting in heartburn and nausea,” he notes. He recommends that you make an appointment to discuss this problem with your primary care provider, who can refer you to a gastrointestinal specialist for evaluation and appropriate treatment.
Lucy wishes you the best of luck in resolving this problem soon, so you can resume a healthy, active lifestyle—in other words, more stretching and less retching — Lucy