Can yoga help digestion? If you have an easily irritated digestive system, you may be willing to try anything. Yoga instructors often say, “This twist will wring out the internal organs and help digestion.” But is that true? Can yoga really help digestion?
The short answer is, yes!
The long answer is, of course, more involved. It’s not as simple as joining a yoga class at a local studio or “wringing out” your organs with twists. Even if you practice every day, your digestion may or may not improve. In order to experience specific medical benefits, it is best to seek out Medical Yoga Therapy.
Medical Yoga Therapy or “Yoga Chikitsa” is the dynamic state of physical and mental ease, coupled with spiritual well-being and is defined as the use of yoga practices for the prevention and potential treatment of medical conditions. It begins with an assessment from a health practitioner that includes a detailed history and physical exam.
Following the history and physical exam, a yoga prescription is designed using an individualized, personalized and holistic approach that takes into account the patient’s mind, body and spirit as well as his family, support network, work situation, and culture as part of the treatment plan. This sounds like the pinnacle of Patient and Family Centered Care!
The potential for yoga to relieve digestive problems may lie in its effect on the parasympathetic nervous system and its potential to reduce chronic inflammation. When we experience stress, our blood flow pattern changes. One of the results of this is decreased digestive system activity due to reduced blood flow. In contrast, the parasympathetic system stimulates blood flow to the digestive system. Supporting the parasympathetic nervous system through yoga can benefit this process.
Chronic inflammation can result from a state of chronic stress and slowly damage systems in the body. Yoga can change the experience of stress resulting in fewer inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein and inflammatory cytokines in the blood and increased levels of multiple immunoglobulins and natural killer cells. A regular yoga practice can also result in higher levels of the natural inflammation alleviating chemicals leptin and adiponectin.
Yoga can also facilitate restful sleep. Healing damaged systems requires energy. Supporting the body through rest and sleep changes the experience of stress while building energy reserves and restoring circadian rhythms.
All of these positive effects indicate yoga is a viable option if you’re looking for an alternative to medication to help digestion. Just know it may take more than a few simple twists.