Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common digestive ailment that is more commonly called acid reflux or heartburn. The symptoms that occur with the condition cause mild to severe discomfort. Most people experience episodes of GERD from time to time, though some people suffer from chronic or extreme cases of the disease.
In healthy people, the bottom of the esophagus closes to prevent fluids from traveling back up toward the throat. During attacks of GERD, stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, irritating the esophageal lining and causing a burning sensation in the chest or throat.
Many people treat the symptoms of acid reflux with over-the-counter medications, but Chinese medicine offers natural remedies as well. First learn more about the symptoms of acid reflux.
The symptoms of acid reflux range from mild to severe. During an episode of GERD, you may experience one or more of the following unpleasant sensations:
- Sore or burning feeling in the chest, sometimes spreading to the throat
- Sour taste in the mouth
- Chest pain
- Problems swallowing or feeling a "lump" in the throat
- Throat dryness or hoarseness
- Dry coughing
Your acid reflux may be considered chronic or severe if:
- Symptoms occur two or more times per week
- Episodes interfere with your daily life or sleep
- Your esophagus becomes damaged over time
As mentioned above, many people treat the condition using over-the-counter medication. In rare cases when the incidences of acid reflux are frequent and severe, doctors may recommend surgery. However, there are natural, holistic treatments available to try, including lifestyle changes.
You can purchase over-the-counter medication to treat acid reflux and heartburn at any drugstore, but you can also soothe the symptoms naturally. Holistic remedies to calm unpleasant symptoms include lifestyle changes, herbal medicine and other natural techniques like acupuncture.
Lifestyle changes: The Mayo Clinic recommends trying these lifestyle adjustments to reduce the incidences of GERD:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat small meals
- Steer clear of food and beverages that trigger symptoms
- Quit smoking
- Wear loose-fitting clothing
Some common dietary triggers include caffeine, tomatoes, chocolate, and spicy or fried foods. Try systematically eliminating these items from your diet to see if it helps reduce the number of episodes you experience. If you decide to radically adjust your diet or embark on a weight-loss program, it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor and make sure to follow healthy guidelines for diet and exercise.
Stress can also be a catalyst for acid reflux, so reducing the causes of stress in your life can help.
Herbal remedies: In addition to lifestyle changes, a host of herbal remedies exist to help ease the symptoms of acid reflux. Talk to a doctor of Chinese medicine to find out what might work for your condition. Your provider should be able to recommend dietary solutions and herbal treatments that will help. Some commonly used herbs include:
- Slippery elm
- Peppermint oil
- Ginger root
Be sure to talk to your medical doctor about any complimentary or natural techniques you use to treat the symptoms of acid reflux.
Acupuncture and more: An acupuncturist can also help uncover whether an imbalance or blockage of your qi, or life force energy, might be contributing to your episodes of acid reflux. The technique also helps a patient relax and reduces stress. For that reason, you may also consider massage, tai chi or other similar practices that reduce stress and anxiety.
To learn more about pursuing a degree in Oriental Medicine at the Acupuncture and Massage College in Miami, contact the admissions department at (305) 595-9500.