The problem: are you suffering from persistent heartburn?
Although diet and lifestyle issues play a big part in triggering episodes of this incredibly common condition, stress also plays its part.
In 1999, a survey of 2,000 individuals provided some insight into stress and the symptoms of heartburn. Stressful family situations, business travel and long working hours were reported to make subjects significantly more susceptible to acid reflux.
In 2004, a study was published involving researchers following reflux patients for nearly a year and found that the presence of severe, sustained stress in the first six months significantly predicted increased heartburn symptoms during the next four months.
What both the studies above suggest is that symptoms usually occur after a stressful phase, not during. This tallies perfectly with our understanding of how the dynamics of the stress response compromise digestive functioning.
When we undergo a stressful phase, our digestion shuts down, and we release less hydrochloric acid into the stomach, which is required to break our foodstuffs down. As a result, we can save on much-needed energy by secreting less mucus to protect the stomach walls and less alkaline solutions such as bicarbonate to neutralise the lower quantity of acids. During the stressful phase, there is less of all these substances to cause us potential problems.
Where we struggle is the time period afterwards. As soon as we reach a point of relaxation, our stomachs secretes a lot of acid (which is intense in its severity) and there isn’t enough mucus or alkaline programmed into our digestive rhythms to neutralise it. We find ourselves susceptible to an overly acidic solution reaching our oesophagus and causing us pain.
This is the point at which we reach for the antacids in an attempt to provide some relief. But they are only required because our natural systems are not functioning correctly.
Scientists have also concluded that background stress can also make us more sensitive to the pain of any reflux. This is because under the stress response, the ‘fight or flight’ branch of the nervous system becomes activated and our nervous system may be much more reactive to painful stimulus.
A study in 1993 for example, found patients with acid reflux “who are chronically anxious and exposed to prolonged stress may perceive low-intensity oesophageal stimuli as painful reflux symptoms.”
How to reduce acid reflux through Beeja meditation
When we meditate, we calm the stress response down to a much more manageable level, and our systems become more balanced.
There is less activation of the ‘fight or flight’ branch of our nervous system and as a result, less withdrawal of key digestive functions such as mucus lining and alkali solution.
We have plenty of acids to digest our food properly, but it gets neutralised and processed before causing us any heartburn or GERD.
The net result is that all of our digestive rhythms improve and we find we are less prone to stress-related bouts of acid reflux, experiencing real acid reflux relief.
Another bonus I’ve experienced is that for years I’ve suffered from chronic indigestion and heart burn for which I was always popping pills and swigging Gaviscon. But this seems to have almost disappeared since starting meditation. Which is just incredible.
Adam, Sound Engineer, Brighton