TCM for Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is very common in today’s world. Statistics show 60 percent of the adult population in the United States will experience some type of gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD at some point in their lives. Currently there are seven million people in the U.S. living with some form of GERD. Acid reflux is the acute form of GERD, but it can become chronic and create much bigger problems for the sufferer. Acid reflux can affect anybody, including infants. It occurs when the muscle at the end of the esophagus, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), doesn’t close properly or tightly enough. This allows digestive juices and stomach content to “back up” into the esophagus. Modern medicine treats acid reflux with medications like Omeprazole. However, long term usage of this medication can lead to kidney failure.

The alternative to pharmaceuticals with harsh side effects is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM has been around for nearly 3,000 years and it has a very good track record for treating this condition.  TCM uses things like acupuncture, single herbs and herbal formulations to treat acid reflux. According to TCM theory, acid reflux is usually caused by emotional upset and ingesting the wrong foods.

Acupuncture is a medical modality that uses tiny, hair-thin needles to stimulate the body’s own ability to heal itself. For acid reflux, there is an acupuncture point that works wonders. This point is known as Pericardium 6. It is located two thumb widths above the wrist crease on the underside of the arm, between the two visible tendons. Pericardium 6 is frequently used to calm anxiety, relax the chest and decrease rebellious energy or Qi (pronounced “chee”) from rising up in the esophagus. So, based on the theory acid reflux is caused by emotional distress, Pericardium 6 would be an excellent choice to stimulate. Acupuncture, in general, is very effective at calming the mind and quieting anxiety. When the mind is calm, the stomach will settle also.

Acupuncture is just one component of TCM. The use of herbs and herbal formulations is also an integral part of TCM. Licorice root, also known as gan cao, is one such herb that can help with acid reflux. Gan cao is used in many herbal formulations, but by itself it can also soothe the esophagus with mucus. The mucus contributes to cellular healing of the esophageal lining over time. Green tea is another herb that can be used to treat acid reflux. Green tea stimulates the lower esophageal sphincter and prevents stomach acid from refluxing back into the esophagus.

There are specific herbal formulations that can be used to combat acid reflux as well. One of the more commonly used formulas is liu jun zi tang. The herbs in this formula help to calm the stomach and expel excess dampness. The one nice thing about TCM is it is completely customizable. So a practitioner can develop a customized formula based on the patient’s needs. This is much different from the cookie cutter approach to healing utilized by modern medicine.

If you or somebody you know suffers from acid reflux or GERD, consider giving TCM a try. There are hundreds of licensed practitioners all across the country and there might just be one in your neighborhood too.

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