One in five Americans suffers from acid reflux so severe that it’s classified as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. If you do the math, that adds up to about 65 million people. That’s a lot! And when you take into account the fact that long-term GERD can cause permanent damage to your esophagus or cause other significant health problems, you can see why so many people need a safe and effective acid reflux remedy.
Acid Reflux: Causes and Symptoms
When you experience the sensation of burning in your esophagus, you may identify it as heartburn. It can also be a symptom of acid reflux, which is when the acid from your stomach washes back up your esophagus. You’ll probably experience burning, nausea, and the taste of acid at the back of your throat. It’s no fun! Other signs and symptoms of acid reflux or GERD can include a sore throat, dry cough, and the feeling of lumping in your throat.
Acid reflux is most commonly known to be caused by the food you eat. Particularly spicy or fatty foods (chili dog, anyone?) tend to be the biggest perpetrators. However, dietary causes of heartburn can be more than the obvious: drinking alcohol or caffeinated drinks, or eating portions that are too large, can also cause acid reflux.
Other causes of GERD are less common but still equally important to consider. A hiatal hernia, for example, can make it easier for acid to rise up your esophagus. Stress, pregnancy, smoking, and other lifestyle situations can increase acid reflux and GERD. People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity often experience GERD and heartburn. Even certain over-the-counter medications like aspirin or ibuprofen can cause acid reflux!
How Yoga Can Help
Stress has a pretty strong correlation to acid reflux. In fact, over 45% of GERD patients in this study reported feeling regularly stressed, and the same study found that lifestyle changes to decrease stress significantly improved GERD symptoms. Yoga has been proven time and again to significantly decrease stress, which is the main reason that yoga is thought to help relieve acid reflux.
However, yoga also helps regulate the digestive system and strengthens core muscles, both of which can help decrease symptoms of heartburn. By alleviating stress and soothing the digestive system, yoga has indeed helped many people manage their GERD – and there are studies to show it. Yoga is often used as a part of a GERD-management plan, which can also include lifestyle and diet changes. Your doctor is the best person to help you create a GERD-management plan.
Yoga Moves to Try
Please remember to check with your doctor prior to attempting to self-treat any condition just to make sure there isn’t anything more serious causing your symptoms. Okay, now that you have done so, here are some yoga moves to try! It’s important to avoid yoga positions or moves that twist the body, because this can shift the acid in your stomach. Instead, try poses that stretch out and lengthen your body, especially ones that encourage relaxation. Focus on deep breathing to slow your heart rate. Here are a couple easy, beginner poses to try:
- Easy Pose: Sit cross-legged, with your back straight, and breathe deeply for 10 to 20 breaths.
- Vajrasana: Much like easy pose, this is a simple position that is best done after eating to aid digestion. Sit back on your ankles, with your feet tucked under you, and rest your palms on your knees. Breathe normally in this position for five minutes.
- Cat/Cow: Get on all fours and tuck your head toward your chest while arching your spine like a cat. Hold for one or two breaths, then slowly transition to cow position, with your head looking up at the ceiling and your back arched in the other direction.
- Ushtra Asana: Kneel on your knees and stretch backwards until your body creates a D shape, with your hands on your ankles to support yourself as your chest and head look to the sky.
Are there any other yoga positions that help you manage your heartburn and acid reflux? Let us know, and sign up for our email list for more content like this!