Acid reflux and, its painful companion, heartburn are on the rise as millions of Americans experience it at least once a week. When acid reflux occurs more than once a week, your doctor may diagnosis you with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
While some causes of GERD are based on one’s lifestyle choices (eating a diet high in fat or acidic foods, overeating, and emotional stress), other factors that can cause GERD include genetic abnormalities in the stomach and/or esophagus, or certain medications.
What Causes Acid Reflux?
After food enters your mouth, you chew and then swallow. The food travels down your throat, into your esophagus, through the lower esophageal sphincter, and then into your stomach, where it mixes with acid and bile.
Sometimes, acid reflux causes pain and the pain is due to the acid in our esophagus. This is called heartburn.
When properly functioning, the lower esophageal sphincter only opens in one direction (into the stomach). Unfortunately, the body does not always function the way it should and sometimes acid and bile from the stomach can go up through the sphincter into the esophagus. This is how acid reflux is caused.
How To Detect GERD
Only your doctor can diagnosis you with GERD. If you experience acid reflux and/or heartburn frequently, you should go visit your doctor as soon as you can.
Some symptoms of GERD include the following:
- Chest pain
- Nausea after eating
- Feeling too full after meals
- Bitter taste in mouth
- Vomiting and regurgitation
Because of the frequency of the acid reflux, the lining of the esophagus can become eroded, possibly leading to cancer of the esophagus.
These medicines can cause unwanted side effects including abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, and headaches.
The western treatment of heartburn includes acid blockers and antacids such as Prilosec, Prevacid, or Tums. These drugs are not cures and only mask the symptoms without addressing the cause. Symptoms can even become worse after discontinued use.
In traditional Chinese medicine, acid reflux is related to a dysfunction in the stomach meridian. The stomach meridian begins around the eyes and travels downward through the heart and stomach and finishes at the second toe.
Traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture do not have any negative side effects and can reduce your heartburn in just one treatment.
When the stomach qi starts traveling upward (as it does during acid reflux), there is a pathology in the stomach meridian. Acupuncture works to help direct the stomach qi back downward and correct the pathology. Heartburn can also be related to the heart meridian. If the heart meridian is involved, the acid reflux will more likely be caused by stress or have an emotional component.
- Try using probiotics: Many of my patients have had great success in treating their heartburn with a teaspoon of liquid probiotics every day.
- Don’t eat less than two hours before bed.
- Skip dessert and coffee.
- Avoid strenuous activity before bed.
- Avoid night caps.
- Lose weight as excess weight adds pressure to the valve.
- Quit smoking as it can weaken the valve between the esophagus and stomach – nicotine weakens the sphincter.
- Avoid mint after dinner. Mints may relax valve at the top of the stomach.
- Keep a food diary. This can help you realize your heartburn food triggers.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing.
- Try chewing gum. It increases saliva and swallowing, washing acid out of the esophagus.
- Avoid caffeine, garlic, onions, peppermint, alcohol, chocolate, tomatoes, and fried and fatty foods.
Having a flare up between treatments? Ask your acupuncturist to show you these two important points and massage for 5 minutes to help reduce heartburn immediately!
Image courtesy – www.renewacupuncturecare.com