A novel exercise is described for resistance training of the lower esophageal sphincter. Resistance is provided by gravity as food is swallowed and pushed up an incline into the stomach. The incline is established by kneeling with the head bowed lower than the stomach. After several months of daily repetitions, symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux ceased and the exercise was discontinued without relapse.
Gastroesophageal reflux results from weakness or relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) . Personal experience with this problem lead me to think about it, repeatedly. I came to entertain the hope that strengthening the LES might alleviate my reflux problem. Voluntary muscle can be strengthened by resistance training, but involuntary muscle like the LES characteristically cannot be strengthened in this manner. The esophagus, however, offers a special case. The swallowing process begins as a voluntary act which ultimately initiates a peristaltic wave of involuntary contractions through the smooth muscle in the lower two-thirds of the esophagus . It occurred to me that that the LES might be strengthened if it were made to do a little extra work. The novel resistance training described here accomplishes this by requiring the LES to push food upward against gravity.
I had been experiencing gastroesophageal reflux for a number of years. The symptoms became dramatically worse immediately after an endoscopy in 2016 in which an inexplicably large biopsy (estimated to be 0.3 x 0.5 x 0.2 cm, but not actually measured in three dimensions) was taken from my esophagus to rule out Barrett’s Esophagus. Nonetheless, all of my symptoms were eventually substantially controlled with ranitidine (150 mg three times a day) and a bed wedge. The ranitidine was a minor nuisance, but even after several refinements, the bed wedge remained intolerable.