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I have GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) – Can acupuncture help?

Last year, a woman named Amanda (name changed) called me for an appointment. She had been diagnosed with GERD by her doctor several years ago and had been taking Prevacid for a while. She said she wanted to address her reflux with acupuncture and did not want to be taking medications.

In 2010, the FDA warned that taking long term PPI’s (proton pump inhibitor) either as a prescription or over-the-counter, could cause calcium loss in bones and consequently fractures – especially of hips, wrist, and spine, which are more likely. Some prescription PPI’s are Prevacid, Nexium, Prilosec, Zegerid. Some of the over-the-counter versions are Prevacid24HR, PrilosecOTC, and Zegerid OTC.

I see quite a few people who have been taking Prevacid for a long time. They often say that they expect to take it for the rest of their lives.

It is estimated that more than 20% of the general population is affected by acid reflux or frequent “heart burn.” Personally, I think this is a rather conservative percentage. Many pregnant women tend to suffer especially during their 2nd and 3rd trimesters. And many children with asthma also suffer from reflux.

Some symptoms associated with reflux are:

  • burning pain in the chest

  • sour taste in the mouth

  • difficult or painful swallowing

  • frequent sore throat

  • unexplained cough

  • dry, rough voice, and a

  • feeling of a lump in the throat that cannot be cleared away.

A Chinese Medicine practitioner will address the patient’s problems from several perspectives: dietary, emotional/psychological stress, herbal and acupuncture. In this case, I did a thorough evaluation of Amanda. We worked on healthy dietary practices that affected her specifically. She received regular acupuncture treatments that addressed her reflux and stress. I also taught her some medical Qi Gong exercises that she could do on a regular basis.

She started taking some Tai Qi classes – which she found to be very beneficial. I encouraged her to walk one half hour every day (she loved to walk). After a couple of months, she started an herbal formula that she took daily for about 6 months. She gradually decreased her wine consumption from every evening with dinner to about once a week.

She just told me last week she doesn’t need to take Prevacid anymore. She now comes in every two to three weeks for her maintenance acupuncture.

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