Strengthening the LES to cure acid reflux
By Jim Notto
The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is one of over fifty sphincters (somewhat circular muscles) in the human body. It is located at the top of the stomach and bottom of the esophagus. Under normal conditions this muscle acts as a valve, allowing food to enter the stomach while preventing gastric juices from entering the esophagus from the stomach.
In a person with GERD, the LES becomes soft, sloppy or ineffective. It was and is necessary for me to believe that this muscle could be strengthened. Whether or not the actions I’m about to outline really strengthen the LES are irrelevant, because I discovered they are crucial to my management of GERD and the accompanying acid reflux. It would require controlled scientific observation to determine if there is any real strengthening happening, but it only takes individual observation of the affects to know that this was a crucial step for me.
It all began when my physician told me about the “weakened sphincter” and how in it’s weak state the LES allowed stomach acid to flow the wrong way. Having had a back injury years earlier and desiring to avoid surgery I went through a rehabilitation process that was unique at the time, but has since become very popular. In that program I learned about isolating muscles you normally are not even aware of, and then working those muscles into a condition of strength.
I decided I could try to do the same kind of thing with the LES. In the rehabilitation program I mentioned we used special weight and resistance machines to isolate the muscles we wanted to work. As it was explained to me, when we were not able to directly isolate a muscle we wanted to strengthen we would simply focus on the muscles we knew worked with that muscle.
Using that approach I learned all I could about the LES and the muscles surrounding it. I decided the best thing I could do was to practice regular breathing exercises to get all he muscles in that area moving. This has proven to be one of my greatest tools in the prevention of acid reflux. I have no scientific data to back it up; I’m just saying it works for me, and for the people I have shared this with who given it a try.
How I do this is very easy. I breathe. I focus on making sure I am inhaling fully, and exhaling completely. Not every breath I take, but several deep, full breathes in a row several times each day. It only takes seconds, but it has given me hours of acid-free living.
I even go so far as to imagine that each breath in is bringing cool, clean, healthy energy into my body. I imagine that cool energy giving life and strength to my LES and my esophagus. Several times a day for a few seconds. Not a huge lifestyle change, but what a huge change to my health!
When I have overdone it a little, stacked a couple more triggers than I could handle or have messed up some other way and I can feel I’m at risk of getting acid reflux, simply relaxing and breathing in this way is almost always enough to set my body right. It is the one discovery in my quest for a solution to GERD for which I am most grateful.