Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been resolving heartburn effectively for thousands of years. Acupressure and Chinese herbs can help not only reduce the symptoms of heartburn, but more important to help recover from the cause of reflux by adjusting the esophageal pressure, lowering gastric acid, and balancing the the digestive organs.
Because the Liver energetic organ system controls the direction of Qi (Chi) in the body, acid reflux is often associated with a Liver (TCM) imbalances and "Rebellious Qi" (which simply means that the energy is flowing in the wrong direction). Common indications of acid reflux associated with Liver Imbalances can include:
- Acid reflux associated with stress
- Feelings of frustration or anger
- Acid reflux occurring at night
The Liver is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi (vital energy) in the body; when the Liver is not functioning at its optimal capacity, digestive issues may ensue. Additionally, when the energy of the Liver becomes constricted, Liver Qi Stagnation develops. Thus stagnant energy tends to create heat and inflammation in the body.
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Spleen Qi Imbalances and Acid Reflux
In Chinese Medicine, the Spleen is central in digestive issues. Poor eating habits with the consumption of the following foods can damage the Spleen function in Chinese medicine and cause Dampness and Phlegm creating further obstructions for the digestive process and a propensity for the Stomach to develop digestive disorders:
- Cold foods
- Fried foods
- Simple sugars and carbohydrates
- Raw foods or uncooked foods
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Lifestyle choices to reduce the occurrence of acid reflux:
- Stress Management: Tai Chi, Qigong, Meditation and deep breathing techniques can all help to lower stress. Consider an adaptogenic formula such as Enlightened Emperor formula.
- Diet: Chinese food therapy can aid in reducing heartburn. Avoid chocolate, tomato, peppermint, coffee, acidic fruit juices, sour, hot spicy, fatty and fried foods and alcohol.
- Change your eating habits: Good eating habits can help to ease acid reflux. Eat slowly and chew well. Avoid eating big meals. Do not over eat; only allow your stomach to be moderately full. Eat 5-6 small meals daily. Eat your dinner at least 3 hours before bedtime. Sit down in an upright chair and rest 20-30 minutes after eating prior to any activity.
- Stop Smoking
- Posture: When sleeping, elevate your upper body by 5 - 6 inches or try sleeping on your left side. Avoid bending from the waist or stooping just after meals.
Acid Reflux from the Western View
In healthy people, the lower end of the esophagus (lower esophageal sphincter) normally stays closed, preventing acidic fluid in the stomach from backing up into the esophagus every time the stomach contracts. In fact, the lower esophageal sphincter is not a muscular valve but rather an area of relatively high pressure.
The high pressure keeps the esophagus closed off from the stomach and helps prevent stomach acid and food from traveling back up the esophagus. When the esophagus fails to function properly, the stomach acid backs up and heartburn occurs. Based on traditional Chinese medicine; the Liver, Gallbladder, Spleen and Pancreas work together to help the Stomach's digestion. Once these organs function improperly, excessive stomach acid travels up to the esophagus and causes acid reflux or heartburn.
What conditions can contribute to acid reflux and heartburn?
Anything that decreases the lower esophageal pressure or irritates the esophagus might contribute:
- Hiatal Hernia: A hiatal hernia is an anatomical abnormality in which part of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm and up into the chest. This condition often occurs during pregnancy and if one is overweight.
- Improper diet
- Eating late
- Stressful lifestyles
Related symptoms and complications:
Other symptoms may include:
- Sore throat or voice change
- Burning pain when swallowing
- Sour taste in your mouth
- Coughing and respiratory conditions such as, asthma, pneumonia and chronic bronchitis
If heartburn or acid reflux occurs frequently, it may cause complications in the esophagus, such as ulceration and Barrett's esophagus, a pre-cancer lining of the esophagus. The inflammation of the esophagus may cause pain and bleeding during swallowing.
It is worth noting that pharmaceutical antacids suppress the natural digestive process and cause digestive disorders (Food Qi Stagnation) with habitual use according to Chinese medical theory. If food is not being properly digested in the stomach, many health disorders can develop over time; they can range from slow digestion to serious health concerns. This is why many prefer to utilize natural Chinese herbal therapy which can address acid reflux by addressing the root organ imbalances which cause acid reflux rather than suppressing stomach acid, as stomach acid is necessary for proper digestion.
Tonify Acupressure Point PER 6 (Neiguan or Inner Gate): Pericardium 6 is located 2 cun above the tranverse crease of the wrist between the tendons of the muscle flexor radialis and muscle palmaris longus.
Apply Even Pressure to Acupressure Point LI 4 (Hegu or Union Valley): Large Intestine 4 is located on the dorsum of the hand between the first and second metacarpal bones in the middle of the second metacarpal bone on the radial side.
Release Acupressure Point LV 3 (Taichong or Great Surge) to Resolve Liver Qi Stagnation: Liver 3 is located on the dorsum of the foot, in the depression just distal to the junction of the first and second metatarsal bones.
Apply Even Pressure to Acupressure Point Ren 14 (Zhongwan or Middle of Epigastrium): Ren 14 is located on the midline of the abdomen 4 cun above the umbilibus.