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Heartburn and Gaming: Late Night Eating and Screen Time

Gaming—on personal computers, smartphones, and video game consoles—is a pastime that’s continuing to grow in popularity. Whether you’re fighting crime in an imagined world or catching characters in augmented reality, it’s essential to make sure you’re practicing healthy habits while gaming. Taking a look at your gaming posture and late-night eating habits are an important place to start when it comes to avoiding acid reflux. Below, we’ll walk through the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for acid reflux at night that may be connected to gaming.

Causes of Acid Reflux at Night

Acid reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) allows the contents of your stomach to back up into your esophagus.1 This backflow can cause heartburn, which is the feeling of pain or burning in the chest behind the breastbone.1 There are a number of risk factors that can increase the likelihood of experiencing acid reflux, including pregnancy, obesity, alcohol use, and smoking.2 When it comes to the risk factors for late-night acid reflux, reclining within three hours of eating is particularly important.2 If you’re a late-night gamer, avoiding lying down in bed or on the couch too soon after eating is a key consideration for avoiding heartburn. Many people are also able to identify “trigger” foods, meaning specific foods that can cause feelings of heartburn.3

Symptoms of Acid Reflux at Night

Do you ever experience a burning sensation in your chest after dinner or a late-night snack break? This feeling might be an indication of heartburn, which is one of the symptoms of acid reflux. The symptoms of acid reflux at night can include any of the following:1,3

  • Burning or feeling of discomfort in the chest
  • Bloating
  • Burping
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Mouth, throat, or lung complications like hoarseness

Acid reflux and heartburn can vary in severity. Talk to your doctor if you’re having recurrent or severe symptoms that you think may be related to acid reflux.

How to Avoid Acid Reflux at Night

If you’re experiencing acid reflux at night or during a gaming session, there are a few lifestyle changes you can make. Seeking immediate relief? There’s also medication that can help. Try TUMS Chewy Bites to get fast relief from your heartburn symptoms in the form of a delicious berry-flavored antacid chew. Use as directed.

Gaming Posture Matters

When you’re deep in a virtual world, posture is probably the last thing on your mind. However, the way that you’re sitting in front of your computer or in front of your gaming console can make an impact on your health.4 Slouching, straining to see your screen, sitting without proper foot support, and overextending your wrist are all gaming-related physical stressors that can lead to long-term stress injuries or trauma disorders.4 Muscle pain, loss of sensation, tingling, and a reduced ability to perform are all potential symptoms of improper posture.4 When it comes to heartburn, reclining within three hours of eating can cause acid reflux2—which is a major risk for causing heartburn if you’re in the habit of getting horizontal to game after dinner or enjoy snacking while you game.

In order to avoid the detrimental health effects of poor posture while gaming, take steps to ensure that you’re creating a comfortable and relaxed gaming environment for yourself. Make sure that your eyeglasses fit properly, sit tall and fully extend your spine, reduce prolonged gaming time, take frequent breaks, make sure your screens are positioned at an easily viewable angle, and avoid overeating before or during gaming.3,4

Smart Snack Choices for Late-Night Gaming

Gaming is frequently paired with late-night snacking, which can pose a risk for acid reflux if not done thoughtfully. Many people cite the following foods as trigger foods for heartburn:3,5

  • High-fat foods
  • Fast food
  • Pizza
  • Fried food
  • Spicy foods or foods with chili powder and/or pepper
  • Chocolate
  • Potato chips and processed snack foods
  • Fatty meats such as sausage
  • Cheese
  • Acidic foods like citrus fruits and tomatoes
  • Peppermint
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Sources of caffeine like energy drinks
  • Carbonated beverages like soda

If you’ve been experiencing acid reflux after snacking while gaming, consider replacing some of your go-to snacks with the following heartburn-friendly options:3

  • Snackable sliced vegetables. Try crunching on baby carrots, cucumber slices, or celery sticks. Raw or lightly steamed broccoli also makes for a great snack.
  • Whole grains. Switch out potato chips with whole-grain crackers or brown rice cakes.
  • Nuts. Reach for a handful of almonds, cashews, or pistachios instead of a processed snack food.
  • Melon. Low-pH melon is a refreshing alternative to sugary late night snacks.

Other Ways to Treat Heartburn

Sometimes it’s too late for preventative measures and you need immediate relief for acid reflux at night. Nothing works faster than antacids like TUMS, which are available over the counter and work to neutralize the stomach acid that causes acid reflux and heartburn.6 If you're a gamer and having trouble sleeping at night, consider TUMS+ Heartburn+ Sleep support, a dietary supplement with 5mg of melatonin that treats heartburn and aids in a restful sleep.

A late-night gaming session shouldn’t come with physical discomfort. With these tips on posture and healthy snacking in your back pocket, you can focus your full attention on the virtual world.

Source Citations:

  1. Symptoms & Causes of GER & GERD. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Accessed 10/19/2022.
  2. Gastroesophageal reflux disease. MedlinePlus. Accessed 10/19/2022.
  3. GERD Diet: Foods That Help with Acid Reflux (Heartburn). Johns Hopkins Medicine. Accessed 10/19/2022.
  4. Computer Ergonomics: How to Protect Yourself from Strain and Pain. University of Michigan University Health Service. Accessed 10/19/2022.
  5. Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for GER & GERD. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Accessed 10/19/2022.
  6. Taking antacids. MedlinePlus. Accessed 10/19/2022.
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