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By: John Mann : February 15, 2013

It has been an interesting winter thus far in Recco, Italy. Aside from the unpredictable weather, life has been good. Recently, Jeff Tyrrell a US National Team veteran joined my club. It has been very nice having Jeff here. As a player, he is an important acquisition for our club. Jeff and I have been playing together at some level for the last ten years. At Berkeley, we won an NCAA championship together and then continued on to the National Team. Outside of water polo, this week was my first experience with acid reflux. Don't be concerned though, Fiber-rich Pistachios are helping me get back on track!

My eyes exploded open to pitch black, my hands were pressed firmly onto the center of my chest. A deep burning pierced through my sternum, like a hot knife, the heat penetrated my chest. Sweat ran down my forehead as I raced to the bathroom. Nausea had me hovering over the toilet.

Silence.

I waited for my stomach to erupt. Slowly, my mind grabbed hold of the situation, I realized that I was not going to be sick. However, my chest still burned like there was a hot coal against it. I now know that many Americans experience this very sensation. Heartburn and acid reflux.

As I read through the millions of internet search results, I began to understand what had happened the night before. More information from my USA team doctor also helped me understand that I was dealing with a very annoying and preventable problem.

But, why me?

I am extremely active, eat a healthy diet, and treat my body as an athletic machine. Normally, I would think that acid reflux would be caused by unhealthy eating habits, smoking, obesity, pregnancy, etc. Usually, the only time I see or hear about acid reflux is in the background noise of my television at home. Now, it has my full attention.

After consulting with my team physician, I believe that there are several factors that caused this episode. First, I previously never considered that you should not go to sleep with a full stomach. Many times after I come home from training in the evenings, I try to eat as much as I can and then sleep as soon as I am able afterward so I can maximize recovery. I had no clue that this is a recipe for acidic disaster! I was instructed to wait 2 hours after heavy meals before I lay down in any fashion. This allows most of the food to digest and acid to subside.

My second trigger was my diet. I began re-balancing my carb and protein heavy diet (a typical water polo diet). I learned that I was likely lacking the necessary amount of fiber and bacteria in my digestive system to aid in digestion. To combat this I have began to eat a bit more yogurt and kefir, which is rich in the bacteria necessary for proper digestion. Also, I have begun to add even more pistachios into my diet. Pistachios are such a rich source of fiber that even only 3-4 handfuls a day can improve your body’s digestive abilities.

With my new plan of action, I have been relatively symptom free for over a week. I am continuing to keep a steady eye on my diet and “eat to sleep” ratio!

Today we are traveling to play against the Naples-based powerhouse, Posillipo. Posillipo has a rich water polo history and has won many European trophies. It will be a great test for our young squad!

Thanks for reading!

John Mann
USA water polo Olympian
twitter: @bearmann4