Exercise Reduces Heartburn and Depression

If you struggle with depression and acid reflux during the winter, increasing your physical activity level may help.

Couple running

Winter and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Do you notice your mood takes a nose dive as the days grow shorter? For millions of Americans, gray skies and lower temperatures contribute to a condition called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Also known as seasonal depression, SAD is considered a subset of clinical depression and is marked by depression that follows a cyclical pattern with the seasons. People affected by SAD often experience low energy, sleeplessness and difficulty concentrating.

Cold Weather and Acid Reflux

Cold days also tend to turn up the heat of heartburn from acid reflux. There are several reasons you might have more reflux in the wintertime. Most people are less active in colder seasons and spend more time in bed or on the couch, making acid reflux more likely. Chilly weather also goes hand-in-hand with calorie-rich comfort foods, spicy foods, chocolate and caffeine. These heartburn triggers weaken the valve between the stomach and esophagus leading to reflux.

Exercise Can Help with Seasonal Depression and Heartburn

Boosting your activity level can help reduce symptoms of seasonal depression as well as heartburn. Exercising raises serotonin, the “happy hormone” that gives you an overall sense of wellbeing. It also increases circulation, improves digestion and helps manage weight. Excess fat around the abdomen puts pressure on the stomach and allows gastric acid to flow into the esophagus. Studies show losing even five pounds can significantly reduce heartburn. 

Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day, and go outside if at all possible. Vitamin D from sunlight can boost your mood and improve your spirits, so get out for even a short walk. You can alternate activities like swimming, biking, yard work, yoga or hiking. Along with exercising, eat a well-balanced diet and get plenty of sleep.

Follow up with your Physician and GI Doctor

Seasonal affective disorder and all forms of depression need consistent monitoring by a physician, so don’t try to treat your symptoms alone. It’s also important to call your gastroenterologist if you experience frequent heartburn because you could have a serious condition called GERD, a progressive disease that can cause long-term health complications. Call a GI doctor today to make an appointment for evaluation and counsel.