An Olympian’s Struggle with GERD

Like patients of GERD in Dallas and Ft. Worth, many olympic athletes struggle with heartburnAs the 2012 London summer games approach we are hearing more and more about the endurance and triumph of athletes who are gearing up to compete in the Olympic Games. We hear stories about asthma, injuries and traumatic events that impacted their lives and inspired them to achieve greatness, but one condition we don’t hear too much about is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Despite the healthy diets and active lifestyles that Olympic athletes engage in, a number of athletes privately cope with the same acid reflux and heartburn as those of us here in Dallas and Ft. Worth.

One such athlete is Mark Spitz. The famed Olympian who won seven gold medals at the 1972 Olympics in Munich battled with severe heartburn during his years as a competitive swimmer, but it wasn’t until after he retired and took the role as sports commentator that he was diagnosed with acid reflux disease. Spitz reflects that he thought his reflux and esophageal agitation was a result of the chlorine that he would inadvertently ingest as he swam towards the finish line.

Spitz began experiencing acid reflux symptoms in his early 20s, and despite his late diagnosis his physician predicts that he was probably suffering from GERD during a large part of his Olympic career. Years later, Spitz continues to manage his acid reflux symptoms with the use of proton pump inhibitors or PPIs that he must take daily.

Spitz is not the only Olympic swimmer to combat gastroesophageal reflux disease. Laura Wilkinson competed in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing while coping with GERD. This Texas native is known more for her Gold medal winning performance in the 2000 Olympic Games with a broken foot than she is for her heartburn symptoms, but the athlete stands as an active model today for others who are struggling with reflux.

While not all of us are able to take our heartburn to the Olympic Games, the example set by these two Gold medal swimmers is paramount. Acid reflux is a hassle, but it can be managed. These athletes followed a healthy diet and would exercise regularly, but the reflux still didn’t stop. Sometimes, despite your best efforts to make the right lifestyle changes it is difficult to manage GERD without medical support.

There is no reason to suffer through regular heartburn and acid reflux. Talk with Dr. Ihde to develop a medical strategy for treating your GERD.


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