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Treating Acid Reflux with Acupuncture

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All of us suffer from indigestion from time to time. But when it occurs daily or maybe a few times a week, you need to see a doctor to prevent it from significantly affecting your overall health. When it comes to attaining strong digestive function, traditional Chinese medicine offers a strong foundation for a lifetime of good health. A healthy digestive system processes food in a timely manner, efficiently absorbs essential nutrients and effectively removes all waste products.

Acid reflux is a digestive condition that that affects around 16 million Americans each year. This issue involves stomach acid flowing back and up to the esophagus and brings about symptoms such as inflammation, heartburn, discomfort and if left, untreated for a considerable amount of time, can lead to conditions such as Barrett’s esophagus.   And certain cases of Barrett’s esophagus can lead to esophageal cancer.

Western Medical Approaches

Typical Western modalities for acid reflux include H2-receptor antagonists like Tagamet, proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec, and antacids such as Tums.   While they provide short-term relief, these medications have no long-term benefits. Also, they are not designed to treat the underlying cause of acid reflux. The body starts to have other issues when the person takes prescription and over-the-counter antacid for a long time.

Chinese Medicine

Acid reflux, from the perspective of Chinese medicine, is known as the reversal of abdominal qi (or chi) since the flow of abdominal qi normally moves down, not upwards. This condition is resolved by TCM through the identification and treatment of the basic root issue causing the acid reflux, apart of course, from the treatment of its manifested symptoms.   Reversal of stomach qi develops when the sphincter/valve of the digestive system called the lower esophageal sphincter that lies between the stomach and esophagus doesn’t properly shut.   The LES shuts and closes when we swallow food. The food passes into the stomach and when the developing stomach pressure becomes greater than the pressure at the other end of the LES, digested food and stomach acid flow back through the valve and up to the esophagus resulting in a burning sensation and damaging the esophageal wall.

Acid reflux has symptoms that include:

-Belching and nausea
-Chronic barking cough
-Chronic bad breath
-Swallowing difficulty
-Bitter or acrid taste in the mouth

Acid Reflux – Common Causes

Excessive Alcohol and Smoking

Drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes can cause severe harm to the digestive system. Both these substances disrupt the pressure of the LES (lower esophageal sphincter).


The womb expands as the fetus grows causing the digestive organs to push upwards. This adds pressure on the LES forcing the pressure gradient to change and force abdominal contents to back up into the esophagus.

Excess Stomach Weight

When the stomach carries extra weight, it adds more pressure on the LES causing it to open partially. This then allows stomach contents to flow back into the esophagus.

Food Allergies

Intolerance or being allergic to certain foods, (dairy and wheat being the most common food allergens) signifies that the stomach acid is not strong enough to properly break down food. The ensuing bloating, gas and inflammation that happen generate pressure in the stomach that becomes greater than in the esophagus causing the contents of the abdomen to rush back into the esophagus.

Hiatal Hernia

The esophagus traverses through the diaphragm and connects to the abdomen; when the top of the abdomen slides up or rolls into the diaphragm, hiatal hernia develops. The effect of hiatal hernia on the body is such that the valve that opens and shuts to let food pass to the stomach, fails to close normally. Hiatal hernia is quite a common issue and can be treated as well as prevented from coming back by initiating changes in lifestyle.

Emotional Upset and Stress

Stress that is chronic and badly managed causes high amounts of cortisol stress hormone to flow in the bloodstream. Too much amounts of cortisol is not good for the body since it can shut down the digestive system as the body needs to redirect its energy into supplying energy and blood to the lungs and heart.

Hypochlorhydria or Low Stomach Acid

This may sound a contradiction but low stomach acid can actually lead to acid reflux. Interestingly, this is the most common reason for acid reflux in the United States. Autoimmune conditions, B12 deficiency and anemia are just some of the many reasons for low stomach acid in the body. Age is also a very common factor for poor stomach acid level. Our cells in the abdomen don’t function well when we advance in age. One of the best ways to counter this problem is to take nutritional supplements everyday.

Eating the Wrong Foods

Our digestion is impacted in a major way by what we eat. Too much consumption of the American diet, (which means a diet high in sugar, alcohol, red meats, dairy products and high fat foods) make us unhealthy. These foods can cause gas and bloating that add pressure in the abdomen making the pressure there greater than on the esophagus causing acid reflux.

Tips to help You Minimize or Even Cure Acid Reflux

-Lose weight: if your weight is above normal, you need to modify your lifestyle to enable you to lose weight.
-Stop wearing tight restrictive clothing,
-Try not to squat nor do other activities that cause compression in the abdomen
-If you have a history of hiatal hernia, then during lunch, eat your largest meal and take a lighter meal during dinner. This tip can also benefit people who want to lose weight.
-Eat a lot of healthy foods including nuts, grains, vegetables, fruits and other foods that help the body reinforce the digestive system. Stay away from alcohol and cigarettes.
-Manage and reduce stress: some of the ways you can reduce and/or manage stress properly is by performing relaxing activities such as yoga, qi gong or tai chi. Acupuncture is the best way to remove stress from the mind and body. It also helps bring back balance to the nervous system.
-Don’t eat late at night: after eating dinner, permit about 3 hours to pass before going to bed.
-Eat more frequent but smaller meals as too much eating can push the abdomen upward.

Health Source Acupuncture
401 New Rd #211
Linwood, NJ 08221
Phone: (609) 248-6922

Written by Valerie

August 17th, 2014 at 4:35 am

Posted in Acupuncture

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