Can relaxation help acid reflux?

Have you ever experienced a burning sensation in your chest after a meal? The contents of your stomach seem to take a detour and travel upward into the esophagus.

Your meal contents come back up through your mouth again in a different way than what you prefer. This condition is called acid reflux and affects many people. Can relaxation help acid reflux? This page takes a closer look to determine just that.

What are the signs and symptoms of acid reflux?

Acid reflux occurs when contents from the stomach travel upwards towards the esophagus. The most common medical terms for acid reflux are GER and heartburn.

Symptoms of acid reflux or GER may include the following:

  • nausea
  • burning sensation in the chest, usually after a meal
  • difficulty/painful breathing

What is the difference between acid reflux and Gerd?

When acid reflux happens repeatedly and over long periods, it could lead to GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease). There are some slight differences in symptoms between the two. It is not uncommon for some GERD sufferers to experience complications outside the esophagus, especially in the lungs, throat, or mouth. Other symptoms include:

  • chest pain
  • chronic cough
  • hoarseness
  • laryngitis (loss of voice)
  • deterioration of tooth enamel

What are some of the major causes of GERD?

Some of the leading causes of GERD include:

  • weakness of the lower esophageal sphincter
  • certain medications *
  • some people with hiatal hernia (a condition in which the upper part of the stomach pushes upward into the chest through an opening

Interesting acid reflux and GERD facts

Acid reflux is common in people over 50 years old and older but can affect any adult; of any race, and any gender.

Episodes of acid reflux can last up to a few months in some people.

Almost 60 million US adults suffer from acid reflux.

Anyone can develop GERD, especially those taking certain medications such as calcium channel blockers (for high blood pressure), benzodiazepines (sedatives that keep you calm or make you tired), and certain asthma medications (theophylline, etc)

Lifestyle changes and acid reflux

Typically lifestyle changes can play a significant role in treating acid reflux.

1) Diet

Changes in diet such as avoiding trigger foods such as:

  • citrus fruits
  • tomatoes
  • alcohol
  • chocolate
  • coffee
  • high-fat food sources
  • mint
  • spicy foods
  • black tea
  • garlic
  • onions

What to eat instead?

Foods high in fiber are ideal for acid reflux/GERD; other foods include:

  • oatmeal
  • whole grains
  • alkaline foods
  • coconut water
  • plant-based-milk
  • Quinoa
  • brown rice
  • ginger tea
  • vegetables (leafy greens, broccoli, green beans, cucumbers)
  • fish and seafood
  • lentils
  • Tempeh
  • non-citric foods (figs, peaches, papaya, bananas, watermelon)

2) Exercise

If you are overweight; exercise can help you lose and control your weight. It can also be an effective tool to fight stress because stress can make acid reflux/GER and GERD worse.

3) Avoid tight-wasted clothing (wear loose clothing around your midsection if you´re experiencing acid reflux)

4) Make sure to get adequate sleep (be sure to elevate your head slightly)

5) Lifestyle behavioral changes (no smoking/alcoholic drinking)

6) Wait 3-4 hours after a meal to lie down

7) Relaxation

Relaxation promotes overall health and can significantly reduce symptoms of acid reflux and GERD. That is because relaxation especially, in the form of abdominal breathing, can help strengthen the diaphragm muscles around the lower esophageal sphincter.

8) Abdominal Breathing

An episode of acid reflux can occur within thirty minutes to an hour after a meal, and it intensifies when you lean over or lie down. Belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing can help relieve symptoms. In this type of breathing, the stomach expands, and the chest does not rise.

Benefits of abdominal breathing

  • may eliminate harmful effects of stress in your body
  • may lower heart rate
  • lower blood pressure
  • may improve cor muscle stability
  • may reduce the chances of injury to muscles
  • a slow rate of breathing exerts less energy

If you suffer from a lung condition like COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) or asthma, please consult a physician before doing belly breathing exercises.

How to do belly breathing exercises

  1. Find a quiet corner.
  2. Sit upright.
  3. Place one hand over your chest and the other on your abdomen.
  4. Feel the movement of your diaphragm as you breathe through your nostrils.
  5. Tighten your stomach by gently and slowly contracting the abdominal muscles.
  6. Exhale through your mouth.

Repeat for 5 minutes. You can do belly breathing twice a day if possible.


Acid reflux/GER and GERD (frequent episodes of acid reflux can develop into GERD) affect several people today. Stress aggravates episodes of both conditions.

However, there is hope. Lifestyle changes can drastically impact both conditions.

Changes in diet, exercise, behavioral lifestyle changes (no smoking/drinking), along with stress management techniques like belly/abdominal breathing can help eliminate episodes.

Speak to a professional if you are suffering from GERD and it doesn´t seem to let up. Medical treatment may be necessary for some people.

If left untreated, GERD can develop into worse conditions such as:

  • Esophagitis (inflammation in the esophagus which can, in turn, lead to ulcers and bleeding in the esophageal lining)
  • Esophageal stricture: (occurs when the esophagus becomes narrow. Which can cause problems with swallowing)
  • Barrett´s esophagus: (a condition in which tissue similar to those of the intestinal lining replaces esophagus tissue lining.

The information on this page is for informational purposes only. Please see our full Medical Disclosure on our site.

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