Yoga for Acidity and Heartburn
Medicines to control stomach acid and its reflux account for the second highest dollar amount in revenues for pharmaceutical companies. They’re not without side effects and complications – osteoporosis, bone fractures, gastric polyps, nutrient deficiencies, pneumonia, small bowel infections, and kidney troubles have all been noted.
Try Yoga for heartburn (or GERD – gastro-esophageal reflux) and treat naturally instead.
With heartburn, there is an abnormal relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter, the valve at the junction of the esophagus (the tube between the mouth and the stomach) and the upper part of the stomach itself. When the sphincter is relaxed and open, it allows food and acid to go backwards. With the reverse flow of caustic materials, the esophagus is burned and damaged. Sometimes the partially digested food in its acid matrix refluxes all the way back up to the throat and then down into the lungs through the trachea, causing asthmatic symptoms and destruction of the lungs. Over time, acid irritating the esophagus and lungs can even lead to cancer.
A Yoga lifestyle can help.
When it comes to diet, the gurus of old routinely advised us to eat moderately. They suggested that it’s best not to fill the stomach more than one-half to one-quarter full. Overeating puts a lot of back pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter, forcing it open. That causes more reflux.
As the Gheranda Samhita suggests, try eating two moderately filling meals daily. Don’t eat all the time. Some GERD sufferers are told to eat six or more small meals each day. This grazing strategy is thought to avoid the over-filling back pressure of simply eating until you’re too full. But the grazing strategy has its own problems. The lower esophageal sphincter normally opens up to five times within the hour after every food ingestion. So, if you’re eating all the time, a little something every hour or two, then the sphincter is never at its resting closed state. Eating infrequently allows the lower esophageal sphincter some time to remain shut. Stomach acid won’t reflux through a closed sphincter.
Many beverages, particularly caffeine, relax the lower esophageal sphincter and lead to its opening. Juices can do it, as can sodas and coffee. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika recommends drinking pure water. That’s a much smarter alternative. Try adding a slice of fresh cucumber for flavor.
Both the Gheranda Samhita and the Hatha Yoga Prakipika advise practitioners against eating spicy foods and lots of oil, other known triggers of lower esophageal sphincter opening.
Stress and anxiety worsen heartburn symptoms. In a 1994 study published in Gastroenterology, relaxation training reduced symptoms of reflux and acid exposure. Yoga has been shown in many studies to relieve stress and anxiety, and it promotes and teaches relaxation techniques.
Avoid prescription medicines when you can. Treat naturally, and self-heal with Yoga for acidity and heartburn.
Vakil N. Prescribing proton pump inhibitor: is it time to pause and rethink? Drugs. 2o12 Mar 5;72(4):437-45.