Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, or heartburn as it is commonly called, is a condition in which the food or liquid travels from the stomach back into the oesophagus. It is a fairly common digestive disorder. The stomach produces extremely acidic substances in order to help digest food within the stomach. If this acidic juice goes up into the area where the oesophagus and the stomach connect, it inflames the oesophagus and gives a feeling of burning and irritation.

An improper functioning of the lower oesophageal sphincter often causes gerdheartburn. Normally, this sphincter stops the contents of the stomach from flowing back into the oesophagus, and it only opens to let food into the stomach. This problem could also be caused by a hiatal hernia. In this case, the part of the stomach that connects to the oesophagus has moved up into the chest cavity by way of the diaphragm.

Symptoms are often associated with a burning sensation behind the sternum photogallery_heartburn_and_foods_dos_and_donts_01_fullthat is exacerbated after eating and while lying down. This problem is also associated with acidic regurgitations that leave a bitter taste in the mouth. Symptoms are often chronic and medications often only help temporarily to stop the gastric reflux, but it comes back.

If left untreated, complications can include inflammation and lesions on the oesophagus, and ulcers on the oesophagus.

It is a good idea to consult your doctor if: the burning sensation and regurgitations happen many times in a week, the symptoms affect your sleep, the symptoms come back quickly after stopping the use of antacids, and/or the symptoms have gone on for more than a year.

As most people know, there are plenty of over-the-counter medications on the market to help with heartburn. There are antacids such as Rolaids® and Tums® that neutralize the acid in the stomach. There are also H2 antagonists such as Pepcid® and Zantac® that lower the production of acid by the stomach. These are fine for an occasional bout of heartburn due to over-eating, but you should check with your doctor if you are taking these medications for more than two or three weeks at a time. A doctor can also prescribe Proton pump inhibitors such as Nexium® or Pantoloc® to help with this problem. But be aware that these medications are often prescribed for your lifetime.

If you struggle with heartburn, the first thing to do is to look at a few lifestyle changes.

The most important is to lose weight if you are obese or overweight. Next, quitting smoking and lowering your alcohol consumption is another excellent option. It is best to not over-eat as well.

Certain foods can sometimes aggravate the symptoms.

Watch out for coffee, chocolate, fatty fried foods, spicy foods, carbo1368209504332nated beverages, citrus fruits and their juices, tomatoes, milk, onions, and mint. It is also best to wait at least two or three hours before lying down. You can also try slightly raising the head of your bed. Finally, you might want to look at the side effects of any medications you are taking, as some can cause reflux symptoms or contribute to an irritation of the oesophagus.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine there are several Chinese disease entities that may correspond to gastro-oesophageal reflux.

In other words, gastro-oesophageal reflux cannot be equated with any single Chinese disease, but overlaps several of them. The main Chinese disease entities resembling aspects of this condition are: ‘Gnawing hunger’, which is characterized by an uncomfortable sensation of the epigastrium that mimics pain but is not actually pain and mimics hunger but is not actually hunger. ‘Regurgitation of food’ indicates a condition in which the patient suddenly brings up food, usually several hours after eating. ‘Dysphagia and blockage’ is characterized by an inability to swallow, with the food getting stuck between the throat and the diaphragm, or the food may enter the stomach but the patient quickly spits phlegm. ‘Sour regurgitation’ comprises the regurgitation of acid, sour fluids coming up gradually and welling up in the mouth before being swallowed. Finally, ‘Sour vomiting’ consists of sudden vomiting of acid, sour fluids. An acupuncture treatment for gastro-oesophageal reflux takes into account the individual symptoms of each patient. The general approach is to smooth the movement of the stomach so that the food continues on its proper path down towards the small intestine and not up towards the oesophagus.

Acupuncture is definitely worth trying for anyone with chronic heartburn as the most likely alternative is a lifetime use of medication.

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