Diaphragmatic Breathing for GERD: Effective Breathing Exercises


Diaphragmatic Breathing for GERD: Effective Breathing Exercises to Alleviate Symptoms

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common digestive disorder that affects many individuals worldwide. It occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, leading to symptoms like heartburn, acid reflux, and discomfort. Dr. Christos Zavos, a board-certified gastroenterologist and hepatologist based in Thessaloniki, Greece, recommends diaphragmatic breathing as a beneficial practice to help manage and alleviate the symptoms of GERD. This article explores the process of diaphragmatic breathing and specific exercises that can support individuals suffering from GERD.

Understanding Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as abdominal breathing, involves the contraction of the diaphragm, allowing the expansion of the lungs and facilitating a deeper, more effective breathing pattern. This technique can help strengthen the diaphragm muscle, which plays a crucial role in the mechanics of breathing and can also impact the function of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Strengthening the LES can reduce the occurrence of acid reflux, as it helps prevent stomach acid from rising back into the esophagus.

Benefits of Diaphragmatic Breathing for GERD

  1. Enhances Lower Esophageal Sphincter Function: By strengthening the diaphragm, this type of breathing can help tighten the LES, thereby preventing the backflow of stomach acids.
  2. Reduces Acid Reflux Symptoms: Regular practice of diaphragmatic breathing can decrease the frequency and severity of reflux symptoms, contributing to a better quality of life.
  3. Promotes Relaxation and Reduces Stress: Stress is a known aggravator of GERD symptoms. Diaphragmatic breathing is effective in promoting relaxation and reducing overall stress levels, which can help lessen the occurrence of symptoms.

Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercises for GERD

Exercise 1: Basic Diaphragmatic Breathing

  1. Position: Lie down on your back, or sit in a comfortable chair with your knees slightly bent.
  2. Preparation: Place one hand on your upper chest and the other below your rib cage, allowing you to feel the movement of your diaphragm.
  3. Inhalation: Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling your stomach pressing into your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.
  4. Exhalation: Exhale through pursed lips, tightening your stomach muscles, and letting them fall inward. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.
  5. Duration: Repeat this exercise for 5 to 10 minutes, 3 to 4 times daily.

Exercise 2: Seated Diaphragmatic Breathing

  1. Position: Sit comfortably, with your knees bent and your shoulders, head, and neck relaxed.
  2. Breathing: Follow the same breathing method as in the basic exercise, focusing on keeping your chest still while your abdomen expands and contracts.
  3. Focus: Concentrate on slow, even breaths, and try to gradually increase the length of your exhalations.

Exercise 3: Forward Lean Position

  1. Position: Sit in a chair and lean forward slightly, placing your elbows on your knees or supporting your chin with your hands.
  2. Breathing: Perform diaphragmatic breathing while in this forward-leaning position, which can be particularly helpful during a GERD flare-up to ease symptoms.

Dr. Christos Zavos emphasizes the importance of consistency with these exercises to see significant benefits. Individuals interested in a comprehensive approach to managing their GERD symptoms are encouraged to contact Dr. Zavos for personalized advice and treatment options. For appointments and consultations, please reach out via the contact form on peptiko.gr, or by phone at (+30)-6976596988 and (+30)-2311283833, or email czavos@ymail.com. Through proper management techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing, individuals suffering from GERD can achieve a higher quality of life and better control over their symptoms.

Last update: 22 April 2024, 09:04


Gastroenterologist - Hepatologist, Thessaloniki

PhD at Medical School, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece

PGDip at Universitair Medisch Centrum Utrecht, The Netherlands

Ex President, Hellenic H. pylori & Microbiota Study Group