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  • Writer's pictureMin Jeon

Let Your Heart Burn for the One You Love, But Not Because of GERD.

Updated: Mar 2




In the fast-paced rhythm of modern life, our digestive system often bears the brunt of our hectic schedules and less-than-ideal dietary choices. One prevalent issue that many individuals grapple with is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), a condition where stomach acid regularly flows back into the esophagus, causing discomfort and potential complications. If you're among the millions seeking ways to improve your GERD symptoms and embrace better digestive well-being, you're in the right place.



Living with GERD can be more than just an inconvenience; it can significantly impact your daily life. From heartburn and regurgitation to persistent coughing and chest pain, the symptoms can be both persistent and distressing. But fear not – this blog is here to provide a better understanding of GERD and strategies to potentially help improve it.

As we embark on this exploration together, it's crucial to recognize that finding relief from GERD is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. However, armed with knowledge, a proactive mindset, and a commitment to making positive changes, you can take significant strides towards improved well-being. So, let's dive into the intricacies of GERD, and explore how acupuncture may potentially help improve GERD.





Understanding Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)


Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a chronic condition characterized by the persistent backflow of stomach acid and digestive juices into the esophagus, leading to a range of symptoms and potential complications. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscular ring separating the esophagus from the stomach, normally acts as a valve to prevent such reflux. However, in individuals with GERD, the LES may weaken or relax inappropriately, allowing gastric contents to flow backward. If left untreated, it can result in complications like esophagitis, Barrett's esophagus, and esophageal strictures. Diagnosis is often based on symptoms and may involve tests like endoscopy and pH monitoring. 



The prevalence of GERD is substantial, with estimates suggesting that approximately 10%-20% of the population experience symptoms. GERD can occur in people of diverse backgrounds and demographics. Factors contributing to GERD, such as obesity, certain dietary habits, and lifestyle factors, can affect individuals across ethnicities and genders. However, there might be some variations in the prevalence and severity of GERD among different populations, possibly influenced by genetic, cultural, and environmental factors. It's essential to recognize that GERD is a widespread condition that can impact individuals of any ethnicity and gender.






Potential Symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)


Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) can cause a variety of symptoms. These symptoms can vary in severity among individuals. Here is a list of some potential symptoms of GERD:


Heartburn

A burning sensation in the chest, usually behind the breastbone, caused by stomach acid irritating the esophagus.


Regurgitation: 

The backflow of stomach contents into the throat or mouth, often accompanied by a sour or bitter taste.


Dysphagia: 

Difficulty swallowing, which may be due to inflammation or narrowing of the esophagus.


Chest Pain: 

GERD can cause chest pain that may mimic the symptoms of a heart attack. It is usually a burning discomfort.


Chronic Cough: 

Persistent cough that may be triggered by the reflux of stomach acid into the throat, leading to irritation.


Laryngitis: 

Inflammation of the voice box (larynx) caused by the backflow of stomach acid into the throat.


Hoarseness: 

Changes in voice quality or pitch due to irritation of the vocal cords from acid exposure.


Asthma Exacerbation: 

GERD can worsen asthma symptoms, potentially leading to increased episodes of wheezing and shortness of breath.


Excessive Saliva Production: 

Frequent spitting or increased saliva production may occur as a response to the irritation in the esophagus.


Chronic Sore Throat: 

Persistent irritation of the throat due to the backflow of stomach acid.


Globus Sensation: 

Feeling of a lump or foreign body in the throat, which may be caused by irritation or spasms in the esophagus.


Bad Breath (Halitosis): 

Stomach contents reaching the mouth can contribute to bad breath.


Nausea: 

Some individuals with GERD may experience a feeling of nausea, especially after meals.


Difficulty Sleeping: 

Nighttime symptoms, including heartburn, regurgitation, or coughing, can disrupt sleep.


Erosive Esophagitis: 

In severe cases, the constant irritation can lead to inflammation and erosion of the esophageal lining, visible during endoscopy.



It's important to note that not everyone with GERD will experience all of these symptoms, and the severity can vary. If you suspect you have GERD, it's important to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis.






Potential Causes of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)


There are various causes and contributing factors to GERD. These are some potential causes:


Hiatal Hernia: 

A condition where a portion of the stomach protrudes into the chest cavity through the diaphragm, weakening the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and allowing acid reflux.


Weak Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES): 

The LES is a ring of muscle between the esophagus and stomach that acts as a valve. Weakness in this muscle can lead to frequent backflow of stomach acid.


Delayed Gastric Emptying (Gastroparesis): 

When the stomach takes longer than usual to empty its contents, it can contribute to acid reflux as the stomach becomes distended and puts pressure on the LES.


Obesity: 

Excess body weight, especially around the abdominal area, can increase abdominal pressure and contribute to the weakening of the LES.


Pregnancy: 

Hormonal changes and increased pressure on the abdomen during pregnancy can promote acid reflux.


Smoking: 

Smoking weakens the lower esophageal sphincter and reduces saliva production, which normally helps neutralize acid.


Alcohol:

Excessive alcohol consumption can relax the LES and irritate the esophagus lining.


Certain Foods: 

Spicy, fatty, or acidic foods can trigger GERD symptoms in some individuals.


Large Meals: 

Overeating can increase stomach pressure and promote reflux.


Bedtime Snacking: 

Eating close to bedtime can increase the risk of acid reflux as lying down allows gravity to work against the LES.


Connective Tissue Disorders: 

Conditions such as scleroderma and systemic sclerosis can affect the esophagus and contribute to GERD.


Asthma: 

Chronic asthma may increase pressure on the LES and promote reflux.


Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome: 

A rare condition where tumors in the pancreas or duodenum lead to excessive production of stomach acid.


Esophageal Motility Disorders: 

Conditions that affect the normal contractions of the esophagus, such as achalasia, can contribute to GERD.


Medications: 

Certain drugs, such as calcium channel blockers, nitrates, and antihistamines, may relax the LES and contribute to acid reflux.



It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis of GERD based on individual circumstances.






Potential Benefits of Acupuncture for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)


It's important to note that individual responses may vary. Here are some potential ways acupuncture may benefit GERD:


Regulation of Esophageal Sphincter Function: 

Acupuncture may help regulate the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) function, potentially preventing the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus.


Reduction of Acid Production: 

Acupuncture may influence the release of certain neurotransmitters and hormones, potentially reducing excessive stomach acid production.


Enhanced Digestive Function: 

Acupuncture may improve overall digestive function, potentially promoting more efficient digestion and reducing the likelihood of acid reflux.


Stress Reduction: 

Acupuncture is known for its stress-relieving effects, which may be beneficial since stress is a known trigger for GERD symptoms.


Anti-Inflammatory Effects: 

Acupuncture may have anti-inflammatory properties, potentially reducing inflammation in the esophagus caused by acid reflux.


Improved Gastric Emptying: 

Acupuncture may help regulate the rate at which the stomach empties its contents, potentially reducing the likelihood of stomach contents flowing back into the esophagus.


Enhanced LES Tone: 

Acupuncture may influence the tone of the lower esophageal sphincter, potentially helping to maintain proper closure and prevent acid reflux.


Regulation of Neurotransmitters: 

Acupuncture may modulate neurotransmitters involved in the gut-brain axis, potentially affecting the communication between the brain and the digestive system.


Improved Blood Circulation: 

Acupuncture may enhance blood circulation in the digestive organs, potentially promoting healing and reducing inflammation in the esophagus.


Release of Endorphins: 

Acupuncture may stimulate the release of endorphins, which can have pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects, potentially alleviating GERD symptoms.


Enhanced Immune Function: 

Acupuncture may boost the immune system, contributing to a healthier digestive system and potentially reducing the risk of complications related to GERD.


Improved Sleep Quality: 

By reducing stress and promoting relaxation, acupuncture may potentially contribute to better sleep, which can positively impact GERD symptoms.


Individualized Treatment: 

Acupuncture treatments are often tailored to individual needs, allowing for a personalized approach to address specific symptoms and underlying factors contributing to GERD.



It's crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before beginning any new treatment plans.






Additional Strategies to Potentially Help Improve GERD Symptoms


Dietary Changes:


  • Low Acidic Fruits: Opt for low acidic fruits like bananas and melons to aid in digestion and to obtain essential vitamins without triggering acid reflux.

  • Vegetables: Opt for non-acidic vegetables such as dark leafy greens, broccoli, and cauliflower, providing fiber and nutrients.

  • Whole Grains: Incorporate whole grains such as brown rice and oatmeal for a high-fiber diet that aids digestion.

  • Reduce Dairy Consumption: Consider dairy alternatives like oat, almond or soy milk.

  • Healthy Fats: Prioritize healthy fats from sources like olives and avocados.

  • Anti-Inflammatory Foods: Ginger, aloe vera, and chamomile tea have anti-inflammatory properties that may soothe the digestive tract.

  • Customize to Individual Tolerances: Personalize dietary adjustments based on individual tolerances and preferences.



Maintain a Healthy Weight: 

Excess weight can contribute to increased pressure on the stomach, leading to acid reflux. Adopting a balanced and nutritious diet can aid in weight management.


Regular Exercise:

Engage in Moderate Exercise: Regular physical activity, such as walking, swimming, or yoga can contribute to overall health and help in maintaining a healthy weight. Exercise can also promote digestion and reduce stress, which are beneficial for managing GERD.


Smaller Meals:

Opt for smaller, more frequent meals: Consuming smaller meals may reduce the pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), potentially minimizing the risk of stomach acid flowing back into the esophagus. Avoiding large meals may also prevent overeating, which can trigger reflux.


Chew Food Thoroughly:

Chewing Slowly: Thoroughly chewing food aids in the digestive process, reducing the workload on the stomach. This can prevent overproduction of stomach acid and decrease the likelihood of reflux.


Elevate Head During Sleep:

Bed Elevation: Raising the head of the bed by 6 to 8 inches helps gravity keep stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus, particularly during sleep.


Lifestyle Changes:


  • Quit Smoking:  Smoking can weaken the LES and contribute to acid reflux. Quitting smoking is essential for overall health and can positively impact GERD symptoms.

  • Limit Alcohol Consumption:  Excessive alcohol intake can relax the LES and increase stomach acid production. Moderating alcohol consumption can help manage GERD symptoms.



Hydration:

Staying hydrated is very important, but may be beneficial to avoid excessive water consumption during meals as it may dilute stomach acid, potentially impacting digestion.


Avoid Tight Clothing:

Wearing loose-fitting clothing can reduce pressure on the abdomen, preventing the compression of the stomach and lowering the risk of acid reflux.



It's crucial to remember that individual responses to these strategies may vary. Consulting with a healthcare professional before making new changes to your diet and lifestyle is crucial, especially for those with pre-existing medical conditions or concerns about their health.






Relief from GERD symptoms can greatly improve one's quality of life and overall well-being. While lifestyle and diet changes play a crucial role in improving GERD, exploring comprehensive therapies like acupuncture may offer additional benefits for those experiencing GERD. Acupuncture focuses on restoring balance within the body and has shown promising results in relieving GERD symptoms such as heartburn, acid reflux, and indigestion. By incorporating acupuncture, individuals with GERD may experience reduced symptoms, improved digestion, and enhanced overall health.  In addition to acupuncture, making positive diet and lifestyle adjustments may further enhance your overall well-being. So, it may be time to step forward and give acupuncture a try. It’s time to feel the relief, instead of feeling the burn.





If you're seeking relief from GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease), we welcome you to reach out to us at the Acupuncture and Wellness Clinic. Understanding the impact this condition can have on your daily life, we strive to help you achieve relief. Dr. Min K. Jeon, our highly skilled acupuncturist with years of experience in acupuncture and complementary therapies, has treated numerous GERD patients, many of whom reported significant improvements.



To explore how acupuncture may benefit your condition, we offer a free consultation with Dr. Min. During the consultation, she will discuss your concerns, answer questions, evaluate your condition, and create a personalized treatment plan tailored to your needs. If you're ready to give acupuncture a try for GERD relief, please feel free to contact us. Remember, you have the power to take charge of your health and find relief from GERD and enhance your overall well-being.





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