Rumination Syndrome Breathing Exercises: Helping Your Body Get Unstuck

The best way to treat rumination syndrome, a functional gastrointestinal disorder, is with behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy – specifically diaphragmatic breathing for rumination syndrome – retrains the body to keep food and liquids in the stomach instead of traveling up the esophagus and into the mouth. You can practice diaphragmatic breathing exercises at home – before, during and after eating and drinking to halt rumination. Recognizing rumination, learning how to re-swallow food, as well as new chewing and swallowing techniques can also be helpful.


Rumination Syndrome Breathing Exercises: Helping Your Body Get Unstuck

Care giver: The best way to treat rumination syndrome is with behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy teaches you actions or behaviors to fix a problem. Behavioral therapy for rumination retrains your body to keep foods and liquids down when you eat and drink. Behavioral treatment will include learning diaphragmatic breathing.

You may have heard of other breathing strategies that are used for relaxation, but this kind of breathing is used to reverse the rumination habit.

Patient: How does diaphragmatic breathing work?

Care giver: Your diaphragm is a thin muscle that sits below your lungs. The diaphragm is in charge of inflating and deflating your lungs. When you focus on breathing with your diaphragm, your abdomen or belly will gently rise when you breathe in, sort of like a balloon, gently filling with air.

When you breathe out, your belly gently releases the air and goes back down.

Patient: Why does this type of breathing help with rumination?

Care giver: When you take a diaphragmatic breath, your abdomen is expanding. We call this a competing response because your abdominal muscles cannot contract to ruminate while you're expanding them to breathe.

Over time, rumination will start to decrease when you are consistently using a competing response like diaphragmatic breathing.

Patient: How can I start to work on this?

Care giver: Most people need to practice diaphragmatic breathing before using it to stop rumination. We recommend that you practice every day for a few minutes, at a time when you feel relaxed and calm.

Patient: Will I eventually be able to practice diaphragmatic breathing when I'm eating?

Care giver: Yes. Once you're an expert at it, you'll use diaphragmatic breathing before, during, or after eating and drinking to stop rumination from happening.

Patient: Is there anything else I'll learn?

Care giver: When you're working with your team, you might learn other skills too, such as recognizing when rumination happens, reswallowing your food, and practicing different chewing or swallowing techniques. Maybe rumination has made it difficult to go to school, participate in activities, or spend time with important people in your life.

So we might work on getting you back to doing the things you need and want to do too.

Patient: Who's going to help me with my rumination so I start feeling better?

Care giver: You and your family will work closely with your care team, which may include a gastroenterologist, psychologist, or dietician, to make a treatment plan that is best for you. In addition to behavioral therapy, your treatment plan might include medications or diet changes to manage other GI problems like constipation, reflux, or other symptoms.

We'll all work together so that rumination starts to get better.

Topics Covered: Rumination Syndrome

Related Centers and Programs: Suzi and Scott Lustgarten Center for GI Motility