Have you felt a burning sensation in your throat after a heavy meal? The burn that rise up your esophagus and spreads right from your upper chest to the back of your throat is known as acid reflux. The scientific name for the disease is Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease or GERD, and is more common than we think.
Although the main reason is generally attributed to eating the wrong type of food, the causes of acid reflux are many. Here is a list of the possible reasons why one suffers from GERD.
• Obesity- A lot of people who are on the heavier side often complain of this symptom, and then resort mostly to topical remedies, which make it worse. A higher body weight increases the pressure exerted on the stomach, thus forcing the acid to rise up.
• Hiatal Hernia- This is a medical condition where the upper portion of the stomach tends to move upwards towards the chest through a minute opening in the diaphragm. This could also lead to the acid going up.
• Most pregnant women complain of heartburn and reflux, where one is often substituted for the other. The body of a pregnant woman undergoes a lot of hormonal and physical changes. In our body, there is a valve known as LES between the esophagus and the stomach through which the food is transmitted to the stomach. During pregnancy, the LES relaxes allowing the acid to creep back up. Additionally, as the fetus grows and the pressure of the uterus on the stomach increases, acid reflux becomes more and more common.
• Taking muscle relaxers right before going to bed could lead to this symptom and / or indigestion.
To what extent is food responsible for acid reflux?
More often than not, it is always a wrong diet that is to be blamed for this symptom. Fried food, spicy food, or any type of food that is either rich in acidic content or can be termed as heavy can trigger heartburn. Here is a list of foods to avoid, in order to reduce the occurrence of acid reflux:
• Meat with a high fat content
• Consuming large quantities of fruits and vegetables that are highly acidic. Some example of acidic fruits and vegetables are oranges, cranberry, tomato, lime, lemon, etc
• Potato items, especially french fries, mashed potatoes, potato salad
• Dairy products such as cheese, ice cream, milkshakes, etc
• Excessive smoking also leads to acid reflux
• Consuming too much of alcohol and caffeine is also a potent reason you experience acid reflux often
Although there is no specific diet for GERD, it is advised that those who experience this disease often should have smaller portions spread through the day. Also drinking a lot of water helps, but make sure you do not drink more than half a glass of water after a meal as that would hinder proper digestion.
How can Yoga help with Acid Reflux?
In ancient times, one common practice of yogis was to perform certain yoga asanas early in the morning, drink a lot of water, and then get rid of all the acid build up in the stomach. This is not a treatment scenario but more of a lifestyle practice that eliminates acid build up in the stomach to avoid getting reflux altogether.
Additionally, yoga helps to strengthen the muscles of the stomach. The breathing exercises especially Kapalbhati and Pranayama works primarily on the diaphragm and the stomach muscles, conditioning and strengthening it over time. In fact, just the breathing techniques would be enough to help a patient of hiatal hernia to not only cure reflux but also reduce the opening through which the upper portion of the stomach pushes upward towards the esophagus.
The best times to perform the breathing exercises are one- right in the morning, where you can couple it up with meditation. And two before going to bed, you will also notice a change in your erratic sleeping schedule and insomnia if any.
Apart from the breathing exercises, two asanas have been deemed effective in curing and preventing acid reflux. The Warrior II position where the arms are stretched in a straight line and one leg folded while the other is stretched back, is an excellent asana to stretch and strengthen the chest muscles.
Secondly, the corpse pose or Savasana relaxes the body. You should always breathe deep and steady while in corpse position, as that also brings heartburn.
Since yoga is both a preventive and curative measure, it should be performed regularly. If you want to reap maximum benefits out of your yoga session, try opting for the yogic food system too at least for one day of the week.