GERD (Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease) or acid reflux is common diagnosis in western world. Acid reflux or heartburn typically presents as a burning sensation in the upper abdominal area with or without regurgitation of stomach content screating a sour taste in mouth. Atypically, GERD can also present as nausea, dysphagia or a sensation that a lump is stuck in the throat. Occasionally, it can also present with symptoms seemingly unrelated to digestive system like cough, wheezing, sore throat or dental erosions.
The prevelance of GERD is generally higher in Western countries with prevelance in North America it is estimated to be about 18-28%. It is most commonly diagnosed empirically and diagnosis is confirmed by relief of symptoms with antacids.
The risk factors for this disease include poor diet that is rich in junk food, obesity, smoking, low physical activity, psychological stress, sleep disturbances. However, is not uncommon to see people with no smoking history or obesity but with a dietary history that is typical of city life. Life is stressed, lunch and dinner are served at the office with marginal ability to individualize the diet, diet is rich in salads and raw foods, which have longer shelf life but are not optimal for digestion.
Conventional treatment for acid reflux is to use of Antacids like tums etc. These are quick acting but effective only for shorter duration. The patient in this case may need frequent dosing. The second line of drugs is anti secretory drugs like H2 receptor antagonists (eg Zantac), which can be effective though body quickly develops tolerance to it. In the very recent times Zantac has been found to contain low levels of a probable human carcinogen. In addition it can have side effects like tremors and increase risk of cardiac events. Proton pump inhibitors (PPI) eg. Prilosec are commonly used however they cause very minimal presence to complete absence of stomach acid. Their prolonged use can cause increased fracture risk, mpaired absorption of vitamins and minerals and bacterial overgrowth
While the drugs do offer a quick short-term solution, using them for long-term is not an effective solution. Like any disease that is based in lifestyle / dietary choices the most effective solution is to identify the root cause of the symptoms, make lifestyle changes that are sustainable and use natural means to bring body to balance. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs offer a solution for GERD that is natural, gentle and effective. There have been multiple studies that have proved the effectiveness of Acupuncture and Chinese herbs for GERD or Acid reflux.
At Avaya Wellness Center, we see multiple patients with GERD and other functional disorders like bloating, constipation, IBS etc. We carefully evaluate the diet and lifestyle factors that could be causing GERD and correct them. We use a combination of Acupuncture, Chiropractic manipulation and herbal medicine for treating the symptoms. We have found that often these strategies are very successful in getting lasting results.