GERD and the Use of Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine for Treatment

GERD (Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease) is a functional disorder in which the LES (lower esophageal sphincter), which is the valve between the esophagus and the abdomen, opens when it shouldn’t, causing stomach acid and content backflow.

Normally, via peristalsis, food moves down the esophagus, the LES eases up to enable the passing of food into the abdomen and then shuts immediately once more. Reflux occurs if the sphincter valve relaxes when it shouldn’t or doesn’t completely close. This backflow is painful since the stomach contents are highly acidic. Over time, this can lead to damage to the esophagus lining or wall. Practically everyone gets heartburn from time to time, but when this happens several times a week and on a regular basis, and leads to chronic irritation of the esophagus, this can be an indication of GERD, which is a far worse condition. Heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD. Dysphagia, a lumping sensation in the throat, enhanced production of saliva, a sour taste in the mouth, frequent burping, and regurgitation are the other common symptoms of GERD. Dysphagia can affect your swallowing function and can set off chronic coughing to clear the throat.

According to the AGA (American Gastroenterological Association), GERD affects around 33% of Americans. Be that as it may, this condition can strike people of all ages although the risk rises after 40.

The symptoms manifested by the patient are the bases in which GERD is usually diagnosed. Diagnostic examinations such as x-ray with barium swallow, pressure testing of the lower esophageal sphincter, test of esophageal acidity, and endoscopy are usually performed in patients who do not respond to drugs, or to rule other issues such as cancer of the esophagus or Barrett’s esophagus.

Heartburn and reflux can be triggered by certain foods including spicy foods like onions and garlic, fried or fatty foods, and acidic foods like citrus or tomatoes. Alcohol, soda, and coffee boost the production of stomach acid, which worsens the condition. Cigarette, alcohol, chocolate, and peppermint can cause the LES to relax which can worsen the reflux. Pregnancy, obesity, and hiatal hernia, a condition in which a part of the abdomen upwardly protrudes through can arise and facilitate the occurrence of GERD.

So far, there are no treatments that can cure GERD, therefore, the aim of treatment is to allay the symptoms and minimize damage. Although not recommended as a first-line treatment, surgery can be performed to tighten the LES. The Western conventional way of caring for GERD is the use of Nexium, Prilosec, and other proton pump inhibitors to lessen stomach acid production to a greater degree compared to the older version of drugs (Histamine-2 blockers), which then leads to a better degree of healing.

Proton pump inhibitors generally bring about good symptomatic relief from GERD; unfortunately, on extended courses of treatment, several issues from the use of the drugs can be a matter of concern to individuals. To help heal the ulcers that develop in the esophagus, the acidity in the stomach needs to be significantly decreased for one month to three months. Even if proton pump inhibitors are good at this, the ulcers can turn chronic and may necessitate repeated courses of therapy. There is proof to indicate that protracted use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) can lead to issues like inefficient absorption of calcium and vitamin B12 due to the longstanding suppression of stomach acid. This eventually can result in vitamin deficiency and disrupt with the cycle re-absorption and creation of bones, which leads to increased bone fragility. For menopausal women, this may be a problem since it may worsen loss of bone density associated with their menopause. Continued usage of PPIs is also associated with an increased rise of gastric polyps. There is also proof showing that continued use of PPIs can develop dependency, with resulting significant rebound symptoms upon cessation.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), GERD is a manifestation of an internal systemic imbalance. Reflux and heartburn symptoms are oftentimes almost seen as a conflict between the abdomen and the liver. The liver, in TCM, is responsible for keeping everything in the body (blood, digestion, emotions, energy) smoothly flowing in the appropriate directions. The liver can fail to preserve the smooth flowing of blood, digestion, emotions, energy and it starts to rebel when it is severely taxed beyond its comfort zone, usually due to long term stress; instead of the normal downward flow of energy, when the liver rebels, it flows sideways. The liver’s rebellious energy affects the abdomen causing the upward movement of energy in the stomach. This may result in chronic signs and symptoms such as a greasy and thick tongue fur, heartburn, reflux, and burping. The lumping sensation in the throat is known as “plum pit qi” and is a sure sign of stagnated liver qi.

In contrast to the way Western medicine treats the symptoms of GERD, TCM takes the impact of stress in the body very seriously. The foundation of the principles of TCM is built on the development of pathology. TCM uses a differential diagnosis that looks at the effects of stress on the interactions between the body’s organ systems and the resulting rise in imbalances. The manifested symptoms and the imbalances are then addressed.

The plan of treatment for the reflux and heartburn symptoms may differ and are based on the patient’s specific presentation. The plan, in general, is to normalize and relax the liver, remove the stress that causes the liver to turn on its neighbor the abdomen, bring back the downward normal movement of stomach qi, and dissipate the heat and convert the dampness that will likely accumulate due to the disruption of stomach qi. Both Chinese herbal therapy and acupuncture are ideal treatments for these objectives. You may elect to do both or chose either based on the severity of your symptoms. Depending on preference, lifestyle, and severity of symptoms you may choose either or elect to do both. You might also opt to utilize either treatment to manage the symptoms, to lessen the side effects of your drugs, to decrease the dose of your medications or to minimize their side effects.

Eastern Healing Solutions, LLC
10875 Grandview St #2200
Overland Park, KS 66210
(913) 549-4322

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