Acid reflux, also known as Gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a chronic digestive disorder in which stomach acids or contents of the stomach occasionally flow back into the esophagus or food pipe. This backwash irritates the lining of the esophagus and causes symptoms including heartburn, chest pain, dry cough, sore throat, lumpy feeling in the throat and even difficulty in swallowing. There are various causative factors of GERD, food habits being one; eating large meals and lying down immediately after a meal, being overweight, drinking excess amounts of caffeinated drinks, alcohol, carbonated drinks etc., certain food products like peppermints, spicy or fatty foods, smoking etc. can all cause worsening of reflux. The Management of food habits is an essential part of managing GERD.
Treatment options of GERD vary and depend on the severity of the condition. Lifestyle changes play a crucial role in reducing the risks of developing Gastro esophageal reflux disease. The risk of developing GERD is high if a person is obese and the condition may worsen if left untreated. There is a strong relationship between being physically active, losing excess weight and effective relief from GERD. Some people can manage GERD with lifestyle changes and certain mild medications but in some cases, the condition may be severe and may require special attention, even surgery in extreme cases.
Stress, anxiety, hectic work schedules etc. contribute to acidity and reflux by various mechanisms like increased acid secretion or increased sensitivity of the esophagus to acid. These factors can be managed by adopting healthy habits and lifestyle measures. Yoga has been shown to be an effective measure in managing these issues. Yoga is said to improve the condition of the abdominal organs and improve the overall functioning of the digestive system. ‘Pranayam’ is likely to be effective in strengthening the diaphragm and thus improving the competence of the junction between the esophagus and the stomach.
In a study conducted on GERD, researchers surveyed a group of people in the US to identify the most important factors that contribute to reflux symptoms. 45.6% of the people said stress was the main contributing factor that affects their symptoms. Yoga helps alter the body’s response to stress.Yoga is widely practised and is known to have positive effects on the mind and body; however, its effect on medical conditions has not been widely or systematically studied or reported. It can be used in conjunction with various other measures and medications to get a grip on troublesome symptoms of GERD. However, yoga should be practised under expert guidance; for severe cases, a doctor must be consulted before beginning the routine. Yoga is recognised as a cure for conditions of the heart, bowel issues, back aches and acid reflux. Each disorder has a different prescribed yoga asana or routine.
Although yoga has beneficial effects, different people respond differently to yoga. If a certain position or ‘asana’ doesn’t feel comfortable, it shouldn’t be continued because the motive of yoga is to relieve stress and better the condition and not worsen it. Certain positions which when performed, put pressure on the stomach and can cause the stomach acids to rise up into the esophagus; which is why expert guidance is recommended before beginning a yoga routine for the management of GERD. Along with the asanas, certain dietary principles set in yoga also have to be practised to get relief from acidity or prevent its recurrence. At the onset of GERD symptoms, it is essential to consult with a specialist to receive an accurate assessment of the condition. Accordingly, the patient and the doctor can explore and agree on the best treatment options to alleviate the discomfort and improve the quality of life of the patient.
This can be through traditional medicine, surgical intervention, lifestyle changes, yoga, or a combination. Dr. Amal Upadhyay, Consultant in Gastroenterology at Aster Hospital Mankhool
YOGA POSES TO TREAT ACID REFLUX
Regular practice of yoga strengthens the digestive system and ensures proper functioning of all the organs. It also improves the circulation of blood in the area, which means fresh oxygen and better nutrient absorption. Check with your Doctor before doing any poses.
Aster Hospital Mankhool