Acid reflux, also known as heart burn, dyspepsia or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is one of the most common conditions treated in our society. While there are many dietary recommendations I could make, this blog will focus specifically on acupuncture.
Symptoms of acid reflux include:
- Regurgitation (sensation of acid backing up into the mouth and throat)
- Nausea after eating
- Stomach fullness or bloating
- Upper abdominal pain and discomfort
While reflux is believed be the result of the over-production of acid, for many people it is actually the opposite. There are special cells in the stomach that secrete acid. This acid is essential for proper digestion to occur. Low acid causes gas buildup in the stomach that increases the pressure in the stomach, forcing stomach contents back up into the esophagus.
There is no doubt that acid blocking medication help relieve symptoms for many people, but it does not address the issue. If your smoke alarm was going off, would you pull the battery (cover up the burning pain) or fix the problem (restore normal stomach function)?
So if medication works, what’s the big deal? According to the British Medical Journal:
Long term use of drugs to curb acid reflux linked to doubling in stomach cancer risk.
Now THAT is scary! It’s most likely that this is news to you. If so, you are not alone. The media is constantly filled with advertisements for reflux medication. These medications are quite lucrative as patients will generally remain on them for long periods because they merely cover the symptoms.
Stomach acid plays an important role in breaking down food and absorbing nutrients as well as killing bacteria and microbes that enter the stomach. Long-term maintenance use of acid-suppressing drugs like proton pump inhibitors may disrupt these processes and make people more susceptible to both infections and nutritional deficits. The use of these acid inhibitors for any period of time is also associated with an increase of intestinal infections and a higher risk of Clostridium difficile associated diarrhea, a potentially life-threatening disease.
Unless you enjoy spending lots of money month after month while increasing your risk of serious side effects, let’s see how acupuncture can help. Researcher’s evaluated the effects of acupuncture for patients who had failed traditional drug therapy. Drumroll, please…
Researchers find acupuncture effective for alleviating gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Patients unresponsive to drug therapy saw significant improvements after receiving acupuncture care. High resolution measurements of the esophagus confirm that acupuncture improves the activity of the valve whose proper functioning prevents acid reflux.
These patients not only felt better, medical testing proved that acupuncture actually improved the function of the stomach. So how did acupuncture help with acid reflux? This study proved that the treatment improved the contraction of muscles that separate the stomach from the esophagus. This is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). By improving the function of the LES, acid was prevented from backing up.
It is essential for you to understand that acupuncture does not treat symptoms, but it works by restoring the function of the body. Any dysfunction of the body is either the result of an excess or a deficiency. The beauty of acupuncture is it simply restores this balance. (If you are interested in learning more, I wrote a blog titled How Does Acupuncture Work that explains this scientifically.)
Acid reflux is a serious condition that should not be taken lightly. When the delicate tissues of the esophagus are traumatized by repeated acid exposure, cancer risk increases significantly. So instead of medication, look to acupuncture as a safe and effective alternative.