If You Suffer From Acid Reflux, You’re Not Alone

Woman has reflux acids at park

If you suffer from acid reflux, you’re not alone. An estimated 50 million Americans struggle with this condition, and about half of those people report having symptoms on a daily basis. Acid reflux is also known as heartburn, gastro esophageal reflux disease, or GERD.

Many people believe that their acid reflux is the result of having too much stomach acid, which is actually not the case. The culprit is the loosening of a ring of muscle at the base of your esophagus, called the lower esophageal sphincter. A healthy esophageal muscle keeps food and stomach acid where they belong—in your stomach. However, when the sphincter becomes lax, stomach acid and sometimes undigested food seeps upward into your esophagus, causing discomfort, a burning sensation, pressure in your chest, regurgitation, and a lump in your throat.

Acid reflux is more than just uncomfortable symptoms. Chronic exposure to stomach acid changes the tissue of your lower esophagus, a condition called Barrett’s Esophagus. About ten percent of people with GERD, or acid reflux, develop Barrett’s Esophagus, which is associated with an increased risk for esophageal cancer.

Typical Western medical treatments depend on the frequency and severity of your symptoms. For infrequent bouts of reflux, over the counter antacids may be enough to keep your symptoms under control. If your symptoms occur more often than occasionally, your doctor may prescribe an H2 blocker, which decreases the amount of acid that your stomach makes. If your symptoms are severe or occur daily, you may be prescribed a medication called a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), which blocks stomach acid where it’s produced by the cells in the lining of your stomach.

The downside of blocking stomach acid is that it affects your digestion. PPI’s slow the emptying of food out of your stomach. In addition, stomach acid acts as a natural barrier to harmful bacteria, so when the production of acid is suppressed, bacteria may proliferate, raising your risk of developing pneumonia and an intestinal infection called c. difficile. Scientists have also discovered that long-term use of PPIs may be tied to thinning bones, a condition called osteoporosis.

For people with acid reflux or GERD, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can offer a drug-free way to treat this condition. Researchers studying the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating acid reflux found that subjects who were treated with acupuncture reported a significant reduction in symptoms; a reduction similar or better than subjects who were treated with medications.

In Chinese medicine, there are a number of underlying causes of GERD or acid reflux. For example, chronic stress, slow stomach emptying, improper diet, or something called Stomach Heat (similar to inflammation) may be at the source of your symptoms. In order to best treat you, your practitioner must first determine the cause of your imbalance, and then develop a treatment plan best suited to your specific needs.

A first line of treatment usually includes acupuncture to support your digestion, decrease inflammation, and help to relieve your stress. Your practitioner may also prescribe an herbal formula to support and extend your acupuncture treatments at home. Furthermore, your practitioner would likely include Chinese food therapy into your treatment plan, in which the best foods for your overall health and digestion would be recommended, along with guidelines for foods to avoid. Simply put, if you suffer from acid reflux or GERD, acupuncture and Chinese medicine have a number of healing tools to help you become symptom free.

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Vertigo Can Be Frustrating, The Good News Is Most Cases Can Be Treated

If you’ve ever had vertigo, you’re well aware of how disturbing it can be. At some point in their lives, about 40 million people will seek medical care for vertigo, and vertigo-related symptoms bring an estimated 3-5% of people to the emergency room each year. Vertigo can be related to other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, tinnitus, and balance problems.

Vertigo is the sensation that the room is spinning around you, even though it’s not. It should not be confused with dizziness, in which you may feel like you’re spinning, feeling lightheaded, or a fear of heights.

Vertigo tends to develop in older adults, and is considered to be a symptom, not an illness. Vertigo is caused by an imbalance of some kind in the sensory pathways of your inner ear or your brain. Your balance is a complicated process, and is based on your vision, vestibular system (your inner ear), and proprioception, which is how your muscles and joints know where you are in space. These three systems are coordinated by your brain, but when one of them is affected, your balance is thrown off, causing vertigo.

There are a number of underlying causes of vertigo. One of the most common is a condition called Benign Positional Vertigo (BPV), in which small crystals in your inner ear become misplaced. BPV is not serious, it comes and goes, and symptoms are triggered by the position of your head. However, vertigo may also be caused by certain medications, a virus, a tumor, anxiety, or stress. For some people, the origin of their vertigo may be unknown.

Treatments for vertigo depend on the underlying cause, if known. For BPV, a rolling sequence called an Epley Maneuver can help reposition the wayward crystals and relieve your symptoms. Your doctor may adjust any prescriptions that may be causing vertigo, treat your anxiety, or prescribe medications to desensitize your inner ear or to reduce nausea.

Vertigo can be a very frustrating condition. You may have one episode, or it may last off and on for years. Your symptoms may last for seconds or keep you flat on your back for days at a time. In some instances it can be easy to treat, and in others, vertigo can be very persistent. For that reason, many patients who are struggling with vertigo turn to acupuncture and Chinese medicine.

Research on treating vertigo with acupuncture is promising. In one 2015 study, researchers analyzing the effectiveness of acupuncture on patients with vertigo in the emergency room found a significant and immediate effect in reducing symptoms. How acupuncture works for vertigo isn’t completely clear, but scientists have found that it increases blood flow to the vertebral artery at the base of the brain. In addition, acupuncture alters brain chemistry to increase the circulation of neurotransmitters that reduce pain, relieve stress, and moderate mood.

If you seek out a practitioner of acupuncture and Chinese medicine for your vertigo, they will likely combine acupuncture with other treatment strategies, based on your health history and specific symptoms. In many cases, vertigo is seen as a condition of depletion or physical exhaustion, which respond well to herbal, dietary, stress reduction, and other lifestyle approaches.

As frustrating and disturbing as vertigo can be, in most cases it can be treated. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can play a role in reducing your symptoms, alleviating stress and anxiety associated with vertigo, and help restore your depleted body to support the healing process.

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