Yoga and GERD

Yoga and GERD

intensive yoga teacher training programBy Seema Deshpande

Have you ever felt like your stomach has been set on fire? Have you ever experienced a super burning sensation in your chest, which gradually moves up to your throat? If you answered yes, you are most likely witnessing the symptoms of acidity or acid reflux, more commonly known as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). GERD is a condition where stomach acid moves up to the esophagus and irritates its sensitive lining. The symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD are as complicated as its name! The symptoms range from burning sensation in stomach, chest, and throat to coughing, hoarseness, sensation of heat in your ears, palms and feet. Some of the common causes of GERD are obesity, taking meals at irregular intervals, consuming junk, spicy, and fatty food, alcohol and cigarettes, excessive tea and coffee, among other things. Stress and an unhealthy lifestyle are also key contributing factors. GERD, if left untreated, can lead to more serious health disorders such as ulcer and cancer.

Medical practitioners commonly treat GERD by prescribing proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), for example, omeprazole, pantoprazole, and rabeprazole to name a few. According to Dr. Carrie Demers, MD and holistic physician who blends modern medicine with traditional approaches to health, the problem with PPIs, however, is that if you consume them on a long term basis, they can be a cause of various other health disorders, for example anemia and osteoporosis. She further states that once you complete a course of PPIs and stop the medication, you are more likely to experience rebound hyperacidity, which further aggravates GERD. PPIs work well in the short term, but they often supress the symptoms and do not treat the underlying cause. Therefore, in this article we will examine whether natural methods, such as yoga, can help treat GERD.

To get rid of acid reflux problem permanently, Indian yoga guru, Swami Ramdev, recommends practising pranayama (yogic breathing exercises) regularly and consistently. According to Swami Ramdev, practising the Kapalbhati and Bhastrika pranayama on a regular basis can cure acidity permanently. He, however, recommends that GERD patients should practise Kapalbhati and Bhastrika pranayama at a slow pace, as practising these breathing exercises by exerting unnecessary pressure and at a fast pace can aggravate the problems.

Further, research studies reveal that pranayama or yogic breathing exercises help to keep stress levels in check. Stress and anxiety are some of the key factors causing acid reflux problems. Breathing exercises such as Sudarshan Kriya and Anuloma-Viloma help to lessen the stress-related or anxiety-related disorders. Furthermore, several yoga poses, such as Tadasana, Uttanasana, help in improving the digestive system, which helps to keep stomach and digestive disorders at bay.

A research article published in 2013 in the International Journal of Yoga concludes that Kapalbhati and Agnisar Kriya in conjunction with medication can help in reducing the symptoms of GERD. Agnisar Kriya is a method of flapping abdominal muscles in and out to improve digestion.

Yoga along with lifestyle changes can help in preventing and treating GERD. While it may be a good plan to include yogic breathing exercises as a part of your lifestyle, it is advisable to discuss your plan with your physician (if you are a GERD patient) before practising any exercise. When practising yoga, practise only under the guidance of a trained and qualified yoga teacher, and let them know that you are suffering from acid reflux problems. Certain yoga exercises, such as inversions, should be avoided by patients suffering from acidity. Therefore, it is utmost important to discuss your symptoms with both your physician and your yoga teacher before proceeding with performing yoga exercises.

References:

Brown, Richard P., and Patricia L. Gerbarg. “Sudarshan Kriya yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: part I-neurophysiologic model.” Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine 11.1 (2005): 189-201.

Gupta, Pranay Kumar, et al. “Anuloma-Viloma pranayama and anxiety and depression among the aged.” Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology 36.1 (2010): 159-164.

Sengupta, Pallav. “Health Impacts of Yoga and Pranayama: A State-of-the-Art Review.” International Journal of Preventive Medicine 3.7 (2012): 444–458. Print.

Kaswala, Dharmesh, et al. “Can yoga be used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease?.” International journal of yoga 6.2 (2013): 131.

Kirkwood, Graham, et al. “Yoga for anxiety: a systematic review of the research evidence.” British Journal of Sports Medicine 39.12 (2005): 884-891.

Kuttner, Leora, et al. “A randomized trial of yoga for adolescents with irritable bowel syndrome.” Pain Research & Management: The Journal of the Canadian Pain Society 11.4 (2006): 217.

Kumar, Ravinder. “Care and Cure: Power of Yoga.” International Journal of Science and Research, Volume 3, Issue 2 (2014).

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4 Comments

  1. Meredith May 19, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    Great article

  2. Colin May 21, 2015 at 10:46 am

    I take Prevacid on a consistent basis, thank you for this article, I didn’t know Yoga could help.

  3. Erika Andersen May 21, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    Thank you Seema! This is solid research and I appreciate you sharing sources because we need proof when we are explaining this to the public.

  4. Bhavan Kumar June 6, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    Love the research you put into this and the resources.

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