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GERD Symptoms and Alternative Therapies Such as Acupuncture

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When a person experiences heartburn two times or more each week, it may be an indication of a really serious condition known as GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease. When GERD occurs, the stomach contents and acid can damage the lining of the esophagus, leading to painful complications such as swallowing difficulty, ulcers and even esophageal cancer. To avert these, besides changing of lifestyle, individuals may be required to take drugs to treat their condition. The problem with this is that these drugs can cause harmful side effects when taken for long periods of time.

Antacids that can be bought over the counter are the most common treatments for heartburn. But when they are taken for years and without the supervision of a doctor, it can increase the likelihood of a form of cancer known as esophageal adenocarcinoma. Prescription drugs such as PPIs or proton pump inhibitors are quite good in lowering the symptoms of GERD. Unfortunately, they can also lessen bone density that can lead to bone fracture. The US FDA (US Food and Drugs Administration) last May 2010, announced that changes need to be done in the labeling of both OTC and prescription drugs. Proton pump inhibitors need to add to their labels information referring to the increased likelihood for spine, wrist and hip fractures related to the intake of these drugs.

Taking these issues regarding conventional medicine for GERD into account, many individuals are now choosing natural and alternative therapies to alleviate their symptoms. Sadly, very little alternative and complementary treatments have actually shown effectiveness in the relief of GERD symptoms.

Alternative Treatments for GERD

The following are some of the alternative treatments that are reported to be useful in addressing GERD symptoms:

-Guided imagery
-Relaxation therapy
-Herbal medicine
-Dietary supplements

Acupuncture is Quite Effective in Treating GERD

Research works have revealed that the ancient healing art of acupuncture can help patients suffering from digestive issues such as GERD because it modifies the secretion of acids that impact movement of materials in the gastrointestinal tract. Acupuncture basically is the use of very fine and thin needles inserted on certain points in the body to resolve several emotional, mental and physiological conditions. Several doctors have either integrated acupuncture into their practice or referred their patients to acupuncturists when they feel acupuncture can help them resolve their conditions.

A study endeavored to analyze the effectiveness of acupuncture versus that of conventional GERD therapies in patients who are trying to find relief of their GERD symptoms using a proton pump inhibitor. The results of the study showed that acupuncture treatment plus a single dose of GERD medication can substantially lower heartburn during day and night. The subjects also experienced much lower incidence of acid regurgitation compared to what they initially experienced prior to the start of their treatment.

When these patients were given acupuncture plus a twice dosage of medication, there was really no significant change in the outcomes of the study.

Other Alternative Therapies for GERD

Guided imagery and relaxation therapy also showed some signs of effectiveness in the treatment of GERD. Guided imagery is an activity in which the person visualizes attacking the disease or visualizes himself/herself feeling better. Some people find guided imagery helpful in resolving gastrointestinal conditions.

Other recommended alternative therapies, however, do not really work for GERD conditions.

For example:

There are certain health practitioners who recommend that GERD sufferers take an herb known as deglycyrrhizinated licorice. This special kind of licorice has shown potential in the healing of ulcers, but not for GERD.

Herbal remedies such as slippery elm, marshmallow, garlic, artesimia, antioxidants, aloe vera and other herbal supplements recommended to treat GERD symptoms have zero evidence that they work.

In terms of the effectiveness of alternative therapies in treating GERD, only meditation and acupuncture have proven to work although they have only a 20% rate of effectiveness. They have better rates of success though when they are used as adjunct therapies to conventional care.

One significant benefit of alternative therapies such as acupuncture and meditation is that it can help patients who require surgery to avoid it. For someone with a severe case of GERD, acupuncture can help resolve 20% of his/her symptoms while meditation can resolve another 20% of them. The likelihood of a patient needing surgery then is significantly reduced.

The US FDA (Food and Drug administration) does not regulate the use of herbs and supplements and so there is no guaranty that the effectiveness, potency, purity and safety of the product will meet FDA standards.

Besides that, herbs and dietary supplements can interact with other drugs you are presently taking, and that also includes drugs for GERD. So, before you use any of these herbs and supplements, be sure to inform your doctor first and never take any new medication without your doctor first knowing about it.

Jamie Catlett is a board certified and licensed acupuncturist and the founder of Jacksonville Acupuncture Clinic in Jacksoville, FL.

Written by Valerie

February 3rd, 2015 at 9:24 pm

Posted in Acupuncture

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