GERD: A TCM DR’s passion

Just like in any medicine, TCM Drs have their special areas of interest. At AAC, our acupuncture herbal gun practitioner, Peter, loves good tummy upset, especially a solid case of GERD. Read on for some TCM centred advice on managing GERD.

What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic digestive condition where the contents of the stomach flow back into the esophagus, with stomach acid or bile causing irritation to the esophageal lining. Commonly this manifests as chest pain, heartburn and/or reflux that occurs after eating more than once or twice a week and is often made worse by lying down.

Why does it happen?

Several factors can lead to reflux and heartburn. The lower esophageal sphincter (a ring of muscle fibres that prevent food from flowing back up) can become impaired in its function and gastric contents can spill back into the esophagus. Poor gut motility and gastric emptying can impact GERD, and the most common risk factors are hiatal hernia and obesity, both of which can increase pressure through the stomach and esophageal region of the abdomen and impact gastric function.

What are the symptoms of GERD

  • Heartburn and reflux
  • Chest pain
  • Bitter taste in the mouth
  • Nausea
  • Belching
  • Fullness and discomfort in the abdomen

What are the consequences of GERD

GERD that is not treated will lead to damage of the esophagus over time; which can manifest as esophagitis or Barrett’s esophagus. The prolonged damage to the esophageal lining is also a risk factor for cancer.

What does TCM say about GERD

The role of the stomach is to descend food into the small intestine. A failure of this function is known as stomach rebellion. Instead of descending into the intestine the contents of the stomach rise up, causing dysfunction and pain. Stomach rebellion can be affected by a number of factors; if the gallbladder and liver are imbalanced this will impact on bile and enzyme release into the stomach which can lead to impaired stomach function. In TCN, the spleen’s role is to transform and transport food into nutrients and waste, and if this function is weak it can lead to food stagnating in the gut, leading to rebellion.

What factors impact on stomach function? Things best avoided if you have GERD.

  • Diet: It goes without saying that the first thing to impact on the stomach is what we eat. There are a number of food groups that should be considerd particularly detrimental.
    • Processed foods: foods high in salt and sugar, chemical additives, refined flours and oils can all disrupt gastric function
    • Cold and Raw foods: cold directly inhibits movement, things like ice cream and refrigerated foods can slow emptying of the stomach, leading in time to indigestion.
    • Sugar: eating excess sugar can be inflammatory.
    • Spicy foods: heat causes things to rise. From a herbal perspective foods such as chilies and hot peppers can directly lead to a more acidic stomach and reflux.
  • Carbonated and cold drinks: carbonated or fizzy drinks are particularly detrimental, they weaken the lower esophageal sphincter and can increase gastric acid levels.
  • Stress: stress is a major factor, if the nervous system is in a state of fight or flight, the rest and digest phase of the nervous becomes less active, leading to more sluggish metabolism and digestion, impacting on stomach function.

So, if you are struggling with tummy problems like GERD, Peter is here to help! Have a chat with him and find out how TCM can be used to assist you back to good digestive health.

See you in clinic soon