What is acid reflux?
Also commonly known as heartburn, acid reflux can range from mild and infrequent to severe and constant. There are many causes of this painful problem. Some cases are diet sensitive, meaning the issue is caused or exacerbated by the intake of specific foods and drinks. Some common culprits are coffee, alcohol (especially red wine), citrus fruit and juices, eggs, chocolate, and spicy foods.
Other cases involve structural problems such as a hiatal hernia. This is when a portion of the stomach pushes up above the diaphragm. Other people might suffer from overproduction of stomach acid. This is also a common issue during pregnancy especially during the later months as the uterus takes up more space in the abdomen and creates upward pressure on the stomach. Also, during pregnancy, the hormones relax the valve separating the stomach from the esophagus, allowing acid to move up out of the stomach.
Not only is heartburn unpleasant and painful, it can also cause damage to the lining of your esophagus if left untreated. You can read about the long-term effects of untreated heartburn here: http://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/guide/untreated-heartburn#1
How does Traditional Chinese Medicine help?
From a TCM perspective, acid reflux is diagnosed as Rebellious Stomach Qi. The flow of the 12 main channels in the body all have a specific direction they follow. The stomach channel flows from the face down to the feet. This makes sense when you think about digestion in general. We want the food to move down and out. When the flow of qi is disrupted for whatever reason, the natural direction can be reversed which can cause belching, hiccuping, vomiting, and reflux. Think about when you have experienced indigestion. Instead of food moving through your digestive tract as it should, it feels like it won’t go down and you may feel that upward movement of gas or food for several hours as your stomach and other digestive organs work hard to move it through.
Acupuncture redirects the qi in the stomach channel by opening blockages along the channel and restoring the channel’s natural downward movement. Herbs are also extremely helpful, especially in cases of chronic heartburn. Herbs can replace your over-the-counter heartburn medications such as Tums, Zantac, or Pepto Bismol as a natural alternative with fewer side effects and issues with long-term use.
What else can I do to lessen my discomfort?
Here are some simple tips for beating the burn:
- Sleep with your upper body slightly elevated.
- Don’t eat late at night. Try to eat several hours before going to bed to give your body time to digest before laying flat.
- Try peppermint or ginger to aid general digestion.
- Take probiotics to ensure proper gut health.
- Reduce intake of exacerbating foods. Pay attention to what flares your heartburn and remove it from your diet.
Iris Martin, Light & Joy Acupuncture Inc.