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Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture for Soothing Acid Reflux

Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), happens when acid in your stomach leaks upwards into your esophagus. It causes a painful, tightening or burning sensation in the chest and can potentially damage your esophagus. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) provides useful insight and alternative treatment to the condition. In Chinese medicine, strong digestive health provides the foundation for good health throughout our lifetime. When our digestive system is healthy, it processes food in a timely fashion, extracting the nutrients we need and eliminating the waste products. Otherwise, our digestive issue can lead to more other health problems in the long run.

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TCM explanation of acid reflux

The yin-yang theory underpins the way TCM understands disease. Our bodies stay healthy as long as our internal balance of yin (cool) and yang (warm) is in equilibrium. Acid reflux is caused by imbalances in stomach or liver, or both.

One common cause of acid reflux is excessive stomach fire. The normal Stomach Fire/Yang is the power that our body breaks down food. It must be in balance with our stomach Water/Yin energy. Normally the Water energy in the stomach will bring the Fire downwards to the GI tract and keep the Fire in control. However, if there is too much Stomach Fire, then those Fire will get out of control and burns upwards or dry out the other energies (causing ulcers). This condition is usually accompanied by dry stools, and feelings of hunger and thirst. Stress, frustration and “fiery” foods, such as coffee and chilli peppers, can all build up stomach fire.

Acid reflux can also be a sign of poor digestion, which resulted from an accumulation of fluids in the stomach known as stomach dampness. It slows down the movement of blood and qi (vital energy) in the body. When present in the stomach, it can make the stomach feel full and cause qi to move in the wrong direction — up instead of down, leading to acid reflux. Fatigue, bloating and weight gain are all signs of stomach dampness.

Lastly, liver fire is also responsible for acid reflux. It’s similar to stomach fire, and usually comes as a result of anger or stress. According to TCM, the liver is in charge of regulating emotions, so an unbalanced emotional state can disrupt the flow of qi in your body.

First thing first - Diet and lifestyle

Many people came to us and ended up failing with treatment are usually due to diet and lifestyle problems. Stomach is like a gas tank of a car. TCM doctors can help you with cleaning and repairing it but we cannot control what and how you put inside it. And without good fuel to the car, there is no way that your car can run smoothly or have low maintenance cost for the long run.

Secondly, our stomach is busy. It works many times per day, so please allow time for it to heal. Imagine fixing a gate with many people walking by and you cannot shut it down, you can only repair bit by bit.

TCM is proven to be effective for many stomach and digestive issues. It is important to know the realistic approach and time frame so you can make it more efficient with better compliance.

Dietary suggestions for acid reflux

  • Avoid hot and spicy foods as well as cigarettes

  • Eat regular and cooked meals

  • Cook with boiling, steaming, gentle stir frying instead of deep frying, baking or grilling

  • Eat more cooked green leafy vegetables

  • Avoid sweet and diary

  • Drink warm water instead of tea, coffee, juice or carbonated drink


For a more detailed dietary explanation, please visit dietary advice.

Image by Eaters Collective
Image by Ben Stern

TCM Herbs for acid reflux

  • Oyster shell: It helps with purifying the dampness and neutralize the acid.

  • Huang Lian (Rhizoma coptidis): It can help to clear heat from the stomach, guide stomach qi downwards and relieve stomach pain.

  • Fresh ginger: It must be used carefully. It can balance the cold nature herbs and clear the dampness but it is hot in nature and not suitable for the type of excessive stomach fire.

  • Xiang Fu (Rhizoma Cyperi Rotundi): It can guide the Stomach and Liver Qi downwards.

Why using TCM when PPI tablets are effective?

Proton pump inhibitor is the first line treatment of acid reflux and has been showing to be more benefitals than other acid reflux medication. However, the effectiveness is not 100%. A study shows that adding acupuncture is more effective than doubling the proton pump inhibitor dose in controlling gastro-oesophageal reflux disease-related symptoms in patients who failed standard-dose proton pump inhibitors [1]. Also, TCM focus on a holistic approach and preventive treatment. Acid reflux is only an alarm of the body that something is wrong. You can easily switch off the alarm with the tablet. But why is there a problem at the first place? What are the potential risks or health concerns in the long run? If you put these into considerations, then you might find TCM has much more to offer rather than symptomatic control.

We hope that by providing information about acid reflux, you will be better equipped to deal with it naturally. Modifying your diet, making lifestyle changes and using Traditional Chinese Medicine can help provide significant and long-lasting relief.

source: [1]

Image by Alexandre Debiève
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