Acid reflux, or heartburn, is a common condition we see in the clinic.
It is usually described as a burning, acidic sensation in the chest or throat. A bitter or sour taste may even flush into the back of the mouth. If symptoms persist more than twice a week, it may be considered GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease. Chronic GERD can eventually lead to more serious health problems.
You may have GERD without experiencing heartburn. Symptoms may include excessive clearing of the throat, problems swallowing, chronic cough, dizziness, sinus congestion, chronic post-nasal drip, feeling that food is stuck in your throat, burning in the mouth or pain in the chest.
Long-term GERD often causes complications. Inflammation of the esophagus from stomach acid may cause bleeding or ulcers. The scars from this inflammation can lead to tissue damage that can narrow the esophagus and make swallowing difficult. Barrett's esophagus is a condition where the cells of the esophageal lining take on an abnormal shape and color which overtime may lead to cancer. Some studies show that asthma, chronic cough, and pulmonary fibrosis may be aggravated or even caused by GERD.
Some risk factors that may contribute to GERD include alcohol use, high stress lifestyles, being overweight, pregnancy, or smoking. Some foods are associated with reflux, including citrus fruits, chocolate, drinks with caffeine, dairy products, fatty and fried foods, garlic and onions, mint flavor, spicy foods, and tomato-based food.
It is recommended that if you're using antacids for more than two weeks, you should seek medical advice. Most doctors will use drugs or in extreme cases surgery to treat GERD.
You always have options though...
According to the World Health Organization and the National Institutes for Health, Chinese medicine therapy such as acupuncture and herbal medicine are useful natural treatments for acid reflux and many other digestive orders, including food allergies, gastritis, ulcers, irritable bowel, and colitis.
Unlike Western medicine which sees GERD as a single disorder, Chinese medicine recognizes different patterns that may cause this condition. From the Chinese medicine perspective, the gallbladder, pancreas, liver and spleen systems (not the actual physical Western organs) work to aid the stomach’s normal function. The root cause of the imbalance can be emotional (stress), mental (worry), anatomical(a physical blockage in the esophagus/digestive tract) or physiological(biome/flora imbalance, hormonal imbalance).
Emotional stress is considered to be a common cause for acid reflux. When your emotions are out of balance, they affect the organ systems and often cause disruption in the stomach's ability to absorb and descend.
Chinese medicine therapies help reduce stress and restore the healthy function of the digestive system. Along with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, other lifestyle modifications can provide great improvement. Besides avoiding and reducing the foods that cause reflux, we often recommend habit-modification around eating, such as eating slowly and chewing well, avoid eating while stressed or upset, being aware of portion size thereby avoiding big meals and overeating, having your last meal at least three hours before bedtime, and eating smaller more frequent meals; to name a few. Our time working with you is spent initially reducing inflammation, settling the overstimulated nervous system, nourishing the body so that it digests and absorbs more efficiently and strategizing ways to easily change habits and manage the factors that are contributing to your reflux.
We also offer stress management programs such as Tai Chi, Qigong, meditation, or other deep breathing techniques known reduce stress and digestive discomfort.
If you have questions and would like to learn more, take a moment to schedule a free consult today.