Acid reflux is described as a regurgitation of acid from the stomach up into the oesophagus. Symptoms of reflux include burning pains in the chest, throat and even mouth. It can be mild and only aggravated by certain foods, or an ongoing problem. It can become a chronic condition called Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), which involves damage to the mucosal lining in the throat. This is caused by the valve which connects your throat to your stomach becoming too relaxed over time. This allows stomach acid to go up into the throat. The 2 most common symptoms of GERD is heartburn and acid regurgitation. Heartburn is in fact pain in the throat caused by the aicd, but as it passes up behind the heart, it was believed to be heart pain many years ago.
What causes Acid Reflux and GERD?
In clinic most cases I encounter of acid reflux are of a chronic nature. A detailed history often reveals either a family history of reflux, or dietary and lifestyle issues. Excess consumption of fatty foods or alcohol puts excess heat into the stomach. The stomach is considered a cauldron in Acupuncture, so there is already heat there. Like any fire, add too much fuel and it burns out of control. Reflux is described as ‘rebellious stomach heat’. The stomach Qi is supposed to go down, when it goes up instead it is considered rebellious. Nausea is a classic symptom of this. Depending on how much heat is in the stomach determines how severe the symptoms will be. Mild heat shows as indigestion or occasional reflux. Severe heat can develop into stomach ulcers, Barrett’s Syndrome and more. Ulceration and permanent changes can occur to walls of the lower esophagus which increases the risks of cancer and hernia.
Another common cause is a blocked gallbladder, again often affected by diet and lifestyle. This blocks the flow of bile into the digestion which disrupts the stomach causing reflux. Any symptoms of ongoing reflux and heartburn should be investigated. Stomach acid is not designed to leave the stomach It can be very damaging to the surrounding tissues.
There can be secondary symptoms to reflux from an Acupuncture viewpoint which you may feel are unrelated, these can include:
- a bitter taste in the mouth
- frontal headaches
- bleeding gums or mouth ulcers
- irregular bowels
- red or sore eyes
These other symptoms reflect changes to the channels and organs connected to the stomach itself.
Acupuncture for Reflux
As stated above, reflux in Acupuncture is caused by excess heat in the stomach, which can come from the Gallbladder, poor lifestyle or diet. Acupuncture points are selected which clear heat from the stomach organ, which helps subdue the uprising acid. I also use points which target the underlying cause of your reflux to try and provide long term relief. We will also need to address any diet or lifestyle concerns which may be aggravating the GERD or reflux. Like with any condition, the prognosis is better the sooner you seek treatment. If permanent changes have occurred due to reflux, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek treatment. We can still work on healing some of the damage if possible, and of course try and prevent the reflux getting worse. Medications like nexium only help provide symptomatic relief, they don’t treat the underlying cause. This is where Acupuncture can help. Research has shown that Acupuncture can be effective for GERD.
How to Manage Reflux
- Avoid excess intake of greasy or fatty foods
- Don’t drink large amounts of coffee or alcohol
- avoid hot spicy and pungent foods such as chilli, garlic and onion
- Drink mint or Chrysanthemum tea to help cool the stomach
GERD and acid reflux can feel like a life sentence. I hear many patients being told by their Doctors to just ‘live with it’. I feel this is unacceptable, the body is a forever changing organism. It can heal and rebalance itself if given the right stimuli. I believe this is where Acupuncture can assist. Feel free to call me to discuss how I can help ease your stomach pain.