Acid Reflux

Acid reflux or Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD) is a common condition in which food or liquid travels from the stomach back up into the oesophagus. It often occurs without symptoms after meals. The regurgitated material is acidic in nature and can irritate the oesophagus.

The most common symptom of acid reflux is heartburn. This may also be accompanied by a sour (acidic) taste in the mouth, nausea, difficulty in swallowing, belching, bloating, coughing or hiccups.

Common Factors of Acid Reflux

  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Consumption of fatty or fried foods, and chocolate
  • Consumption of coffee and alcohol
  • Large meals
  • Smoking
  • Systemic sclerosis
  • Hiatus hernia

In Western medicine, common treatments include antacids after meals and at bedtime, along with the proper management of a patient’s diet. This includes eating small, regular meals based mainly on bland foods such as chicken, rice, milk and fish.

Treating Acid Reflux with Chinese Medicine

In traditional Chinese medicine, there are three main causes of acid relux:

  • Emotional stress which can affect the Spleen, Stomach, Liver, Lungs and Heart
  • Irregular diet leading to Qi stagnation and the formation of Dampness and/or Phlegm
  • Overwork – this weakens the Spleen, Stomach and Kidneys

There are several clinical patterns related to acid regurgitation, with both the Stomach and Spleen being central to the pathological process.  The main patterns include:

  • Qi stagnation with Dampness and/or Phelgm
  • Stomach- and Liver-Heat
  • Blood Stasis
  • Stomach Yin deficiency with empty Heat
  • Spleen and Stomach Yang deficiency
  • Kidney Yang deficiency

Treatment in Chinese medicine will often involve a combination of acupuncture and herbal medicine. Some commonly used herbs include Ren Shen (Radix Ginseng), Fu Ling (Poria), Chen Pi (Pericarpium Citri Reticulatae) and Gan Cao (Radix Glycyrrhizae). As part of the treatment, a TCM practitioner will commonly provide dietary advice on which foods to avoid and which may help.

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