Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
23 Case Studies
27 Member Stories
4 Research

Many research studies have been published that mention the efficacy of Yoga to help alleviate some of the symptoms of GERD primarily by lowering stress levels, one of the known factors affecting GERD.

Does Yoga help GERD?

Do you feel a burning sensation arising from your stomach and moving upon your esophagus, hindering you from eating your favorite food? GERD can affect your sleep and other quality of life parameters. The condition, however, is not life-threatening but definitely a matter of concern.

GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease is the most common digestive disorder affecting around 10 - 20% of people all over the world. The condition is characterized by symptoms like heartburn, severe bloating, constipation, laryngitis, regurgitation, cough, dental erosions, difficulty swallowing food and GI discomfort.

Conventional drugs like Proton pump inhibitors (PPI) are available over-the-counter or as prescribed for treatment of GERD. But these drugs are often insufficient to relieve the symptoms of gastric reflux, especially if a person is encountering severe symptoms of GERD or have multiple etiologies. However, there are many complementary approaches one can follow to overcome the side effects of PPIs for GERD.

What does the research say about practicing Yoga to bring any relief or have a healing experience for someone with GERD? Quite a few research studies have been published that mention the efficacy of Yoga to help alleviate some of the symptoms of GERD primarily by lowering stress levels, one of the known factors affecting GERD. [1]

See: Pranayama breathing exercises & poses

Best yoga asanas for GERD, acidity, or gas

It's best to consult a yoga expert on which Yoga Asanas for Acid Reflux, GERD or gas would be best for you. Remember, it's the backward flow of acid from the stomach into your esophagus that causes acid reflux. The acids may provide you heartburn and taste disagreeable in the back of your throat. As everybody responds differently to yoga if a move does not feel comfortable or if it makes your acid reflux worse, you do not have to keep doing this. Adding yoga to your treatment program should help alleviate stress and improve your problem. 

These are some Yoga poses for helping your digestive system:

1.       Supta Baddha Konasana, or Reclining Bound Angle

 Lie on your back with your hands released and open to your shoulder height.  Bring both your feet together towards your pelvic region by bending your knees. Ensure that the bottoms of your feet touch each other and carefully pull your heels close towards your pelvic area to experience a good amount of resistance. Hold onto this position for 5 minutes. 

Benefits: Helps relieve stress and anxiety by promoting blood flow throughout the body, stimulates reproductive organs, pancreas, kidneys, and bladder, for better functioning.

2.      Vajrasana (Thunderbolt)

Kneel down on your yoga mat and sit back comfortably on your heels. Keep your head and spine erect and your hands, palms facing down on the knees. While breathing, hold this position for about 10 minutes. Return to your normal sitting position.

Benefits: Help digest the food properly and prevent acidity, boost circulation in the abdominal region intestine and stomach.

3.       Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)- It's a back-bending pose, which looks like a bow when you pose for it.  Lie with your face down and slowly bend your knees and bring your foot closer towards your abdomen and then move your hands towards your back to hold your ankles. Look straight and pull your chest upwards with taking deep breaths. Hold onto this position for a few minutes.

Benefits:  It helps stretch the abdominal muscles, improves gastrointestinal motility, stimulates ovaries and maintains a good circulation in the reproductive organs thus promoting ovulation. 

4.       Kapalbhati - Easy to perform yoga pose, with a plethora of benefits. Sit comfortably in a yogic posture with your spine erect and place your hands on the knees with palms open to the sky. Then start breathing in and breathing out. As you exhale, pull your stomach and your navel in back towards the spine to experience greater benefits.

Benefits: This pose helps keep your mind, body, and spirit healthy. It helps control severe symptoms of GERD like abnormalities in the esophagus, malfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES),  and impaired stomach function (gastroparesis).

5.       Padmasana - Padmasana or lotus position is a cross-legged (left leg on the right or vice versa) sitting asana where your feet are comfortably placed on the opposite thighs and your hands placed on the top of your knees. Keep your head and spine erect all the time. Breathe long and deep for at least 10-20 times.

Benefits: It helps in improving digestion and reducing the muscular tension in the abdomen, relaxes the mind, treats menstrual issues and activates the pelvis, bladder and the spine.

In addition to the above mentioned 5 yoga poses for the digestive system,  there are also other effective yoga poses one can try to find relief from GERD which include Vajrasana, Cat cow pose, Meditation, Bridge Pose, Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar), Bhujangasana (Cobra pose), Naukasana (Boat Pose), leg up the wall pose, Chakki Chalanasana, and Ardha Matsyendrasana. 


See: Triangle Pose in Yoga - Trikona Asana for Digestion

Scientific Studies in Yoga for GERD

1. Can yoga be used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease? [2].

In this study, a 62-year-old male complained about a history of heartburn which was followed by dysphagia. He was investigated for his health profile and esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD)  which revealed the presence of gastritis and duodenitis. The patient was already taking a high dose of PPI and was advised to continue the same drug along with Yoga for symptomatic alleviation of his GERD. He was advised to perform yoga that included a Kapalbhati Pranayama and an Agnisar Kriya daily for around 6 months. After 6 months of follow up, the patient had significant symptomatic improvement due to a combined regimen of Yoga and PPI, which were found to be refractory to a high dose of PPI alone. The severity and frequency of heartburn and dysphagia symptoms improved significantly. Other symptoms like nausea, postprandial fullness, constipation, bloating and diarrhea went away. He also reported normal bowel movements. Thus,  proving the positive effect of yoga exercises on alleviating severe symptoms of GERD.

Yoga is a combination of physical practice along with a strong connection to the traditional Indian medicine system. Researchers surveyed the effect of yoga on GERD where they identified stress to be the causative factor that impacted their reflux symptoms and found out that yoga was found to be beneficial in alleviating GERD symptoms. It has been found that yoga for acid reflux, GERD has a beneficial impact on the autonomic nervous system where it limits the ability of the gastrointestinal tract to continue peristaltic contractions thus regulating appropriate fluid secretion needed for digestion. Regular practice of yoga for GERD can help regulate blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate, all of which can help fight physiological stress.

GERD or acidity can result from improper chewing of your food, insufficient consumption of water, smoking and eating junk food. However, practicing some specific yoga poses can cure acidity or acid reflux. 

Yoga practices like deep breathing and stretching can improve the flexibility of abdominal muscles and help relieve the body from toxins that get accumulated in the intestines.

Asanas of yoga for the digestive system, as well as yoga for the esophagus and gastrointestinal tract that can help alleviate the stress, are listed below.  


See: Nose breathing exercises for health benefits

Summary

Yoga practice in different forms has proved its efficacy to help relieve GERD.   If practiced regularly, Yoga can help increase diaphragmatic tone that can help control acid reflux from the stomach to the esophagus. Each yogic posture (Mudras) is known to be different from one another and so their effects. The effects of these yogic postures are multiplied when practiced in combination. It has been found in some clinical trials, that pranayama which involves deep breathing in and out techniques can activate the abdominal muscles, clear respiratory passage and strengthen the diaphragm thus promoting improved digestion and gastrointestinal motility. Go ahead and make Yoga as part of your daily regimen if you have any type of digestion issues.

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References

1. The Relationship between Stress and Symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux: The Influence of Psychological Factors.

Source: American Journal of Gastroenterology . Jan1993, Vol. 88 Issue 1, p11-19. 9p. 1 Diagram, 1 Chart, 4 Graphs.

Author(s): Bradley, Laurence A.; Richter, Joel E.; Pulliam, Thomas J.; Haile, Julie McDonald; Scarinci, Isabel C.; Schan, Cathy A.; Dalton, Christine B.; Salley, Alfred N.

2.    Kaswala D1, Shah S, Mishra A, Patel H, Patel N, Sangwan P, Chodos A, Brelvi Z. Can yoga be used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease? Int J Yoga. 2013 Jul;6(2):131-3.

3. .https://www.india.com/lifestyle/yoga-asanas-for-acidity-5-most-effective-yoga-poses-to-treat-acid-reflux-2163799/

4. . https://www.artofliving.org/in-en/yoga/health-and-wellness/yoga-acidity

See: Ayurvedic and Holistic approaches in dental treatments

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