Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is sometimes called acid reflux, and some people just think of it as heartburn. It happens when the contents of your stomach — including stomach acid — move into the lower part of your esophagus. If it happens more than a couple of times a week, you may have GERD.
At Family Acupuncture and Wellness, our staff of experts, led by Adam Learner, L.Ac., want to help you live an optimally healthy life. If you’re battling GERD, you probably don’t feel optimally healthy! And, chronic GERD can lead to complications. Functional medicine, which is an approach that takes your whole body and all of its complementary systems into consideration, may be able to help.
GERD can lead to complications, but there’s some evidence that the most common treatments, proton pump inhibitors and H2 blockers, may also be problematic. We want to help you live life without GERD, but instead of suggesting medications, we want to heal the underlying cause of your problem so that you don’t need medications.
GERD: the process
When you have GERD, the sphincter that separates your esophagus from your stomach doesn’t close as tightly as it needs to, and allows some of the contents of your stomach to get into your esophagus. This may feel like a burning sensation in your chest or your throat.
The reason that your sphincter doesn’t close as tightly as it should, or doesn’t stay closed appropriately, could be any number of things, and that’s where functional medicine comes in.
One of the simplest methods of controlling your GERD could be examining your lifestyle and identifying anything that could be contributing or even causing your problems. Remember, functional medicine brings your whole body into the question of why you’re having problems, and that means we discuss your diet, habits, how you sleep and how much, and many other components of your lifestyle.
Once we understand your lifestyle, we can suggest modifications that may help. When you hear the phrase “lifestyle modification,” you may think that we’re going to ask you to change your whole life, but in reality, we want to target small, effective changes.
One example is smoking. One study found that tobacco use is one of the biggest risk factors for GERD. The same study also found that table salt intake is also an important risk factor. You know that quitting smoking is beneficial for your health, but what if you could get rid of GERD by using less salt?
Some people have GERD that is triggered by specific foods. We work with you to identify any triggers you may have so that you can avoid those foods. Large meals may be the problem; we can help you begin to modify your diet so that you don’t need large meals to feel satisfied.
Sleeping with your head elevated and learning specific breathing exercises may also be beneficial.
Along with looking at potentially helpful lifestyle modifications, we may suggest you try alternative therapies to get your GERD under control. We offer acupuncture and Chinese herbs, both of which may help with GERD. You may not need these kinds of therapies long-term, but just long enough to heal so that you don’t have chronic acid reflux.
If you need to use an over-the-counter acid reducer once in awhile, you probably don’t need to be concerned, but if you have GERD and deal with acid reflux often, you may want to investigate functional medicine and the non-pharmaceutical treatments that are available.
Schedule an appointment at Family Acupuncture and Wellness. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and discuss your situation.