Acupuncture can be used in a variety of applications, and recent discoveries even substantiate its effectiveness for treating acid reflux disease. The following guide can help you understand how acupuncture works to alleviate heartburn, along with a side-by-side comparison between the natural healing method and Western medications.
What Is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux disease, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), occurs when stomach acid moves up into the esophagus. This usually produces heartburn, a sour taste at the back of the mouth, nausea, and bloating. Without treatment, it sometimes causes difficulty swallowing, a chronic cough, laryngitis, and ulcers. Over time, GERD can even progress to Barrett's esophagus, which means the esophagus lining is permanently damaged on a cellular level.
How Does Acupuncture Help Acid Reflux?
According to the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, acupuncture is effective for treating acid reflux and other diseases because it restores the healthy flow of qi, a vital life force that exists in all beings. With acid reflux, specifically, the direction of qi flows upward instead of downward, causing stomach acid regurgitation.
Practitioners of TCM and acupuncture also believe acid reflux can be caused by disorders in the spleen and liver, which in turn impairs your body’s ability to digest food. Acupuncture helps to bring these organs back into harmony, ultimately resolving not just the symptoms of GERD but also the underlying cause.
How Effective Is Acupuncture?
Researchers at the Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine present compelling evidence of the physiological benefits of acupuncture. Using an esophageal impedance manometry test, which measures how well the esophageal muscles contract to prevent reflux, the university showed acupuncture improved muscle function and pressure.
Patients from this study also showed an increase in their ability to swallow normally after acupuncture treatment. In contrast, the control group saw a 4% decrease. Acupuncture also improved the patients’ esophageal emptying by about 20%. Again, the control group without treatment performed worse at the conclusion of the study.
How Does Acupuncture Compare to Western Medications?
Proton pump inhibitor (PPI) medications are often prescribed to treat acid reflux, but they can come with a number of side effects, including constipation, diarrhea, nausea, headache, gas, and vomiting. New research also shows PPIs may increase a person’s risk for heart attack, kidney disease, and dementia. That’s because PPIs affect every cell in the body. They don’t just target the problem, as they also reduce acid production system-wide.
Acupuncture, on the other hand, carries fewer risks. The most common side effect is extremely mild stinging and bleeding at the insertion site, but this usually dissipates quickly.
If you’re interested in using acupuncture to treat acid reflux, chronic pain, anxiety, or another condition, talk with Marie Gonzales, L.Ac. in Nyack, NY. She has practiced acupuncture for over 20 years in the New York metropolitan area and earned a Master's degree from the Tri-State College of Acupuncture. To learn more about her comprehensive approach to natural healing, visit her website or call (845) 398-1312 today.