Esophageal Reflux is a common problem in our society. It is categorized by a burning sensation, and sometimes pain in the substernal region, typically after a large meal. It frequently bothers people at night during their sleep, as the content of the stomach refluxes back into the esophagus in the lying position. There are a variety of food triggers for the Esophageal Reflux, such as chocolate, alcohol, spicy food, etc.
Some Medications May Help
There are a number of medications commonly used for management of reflux symptoms, some are over the counter, while most being prescriptional. In addition, common anti-reflux regimens include moderation of meal portion, regular meal time, avoidance of food and drinks at least 2 hours before bedtime and elevation of the head of the bed.
Unfortunately, some patients fail to respond to all the above mentioned measures. Even for those who respond well to anti-reflux medications, some experts have raised the question regarding long term safety of the medications. Although there is no clear data indicating any problems with the long term usage of these medications, one may certainly speculate that long term suppression of the stomach acid may not be in the best interest of our body. After all, stomach acid helps the digestion and also plays the role of killing the bacteria in the food we eat.
Acupuncture may help managing the symptoms
A high school senior student came to me about a year ago. She had suffered from the acid reflux symptoms for years, and failed to respond to the standard western treatment. She had low energy level, unable to gain weight because of the digestive problem. After 5 acupuncture sessions, her reflux symptoms subsided completely. At the one year followup, she is still symptom free and just about finishing up her first year in college.
From the tradition Chinese Medicine's viewpoint, acid reflux is the reversal of the digestive system energy, which should flow downward in the normal condition. Acupuncture and/or herbal formula helps regulating the energy flow.
I have also seen several patients in recent years with throat discomfort, described as a lump-in-the throat sensation, mouth dryness and some difficulties swallowing. Frequently these patients are classified as having acid reflux problems. I don't necessarily agree with the diagnosis if they don't have the Esophageal Reflux symptoms such as heart burn or substernal pain. These patients may have yin-yang imbalance and energy stagnation in the throat and I have treated these patients with success using acupuncture and/or herbs.