Eating and Swimming – A Potentially Deadly Combination

By Dr. Michael Wald – submitted for publication
Swimming is an entirely parasympathetic nervous system effort; meaning, that this part of the autonomic nervous system causes dilation of arterioles to the digestive track in response to foods (eating).  The dilation of blood vessels allows large amounts of blood go to the organs of digestion.  When the parasympathetic nervous system is handling digestive processes, it is not optimizing blood flow to muscles and several other organs that are not “working” at the time.  Exercises like swimming, require the sympathetic portion of the autonomic nervous system to kick in increasing muscle power, reflexes and muscle stamina.  If both parts of the autonomic nervous system are activated at the same time neither portion works optimally.  Simply put, if blood is flowing to the guts for digestion there will be less circulation to the muscles involved in any other non-digestive activity such as swimming. The increased demand of blood flow to the muscles during swimming may not be met in certain people, and depending upon the size and/or type and timing of the meal, resulting in painful cramping of muscles.

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*DISCLAIMER: Dr. Michael Wald is a doctor of chiropractic with a masters degree in nutrition. He is also a Certified Dietitian Nutritionist and a Certified Nutritional Specialist and Sports Nutritionist. Dr. Wald is certified to provide acupuncture in several states, but not New York. Dr. Wald has two board certifications in nutrition. Dr. Michael Wald earned his MD diploma, but did not complete a residency and is thus not licensed to practice medicine. The information on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not to substitute for sound medical or health advice. Information contained within this website may change at any time without prior notice. The information on this website is under copyright, 2021.