What causes GORD?
GORD affects around 25% of the adult population on a regular basis. The disease is characterised by heartburn and gastric acid reflux. Standard care for GORD includes medications such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and prokinetic drugs although their success rate is relative to the cause of the individual’s condition and these medications are often associated with complications from long term use.
GORD has been linked to a variety of genetic, dietary and lifestyle factors. An Iranian study identified that GORD was significantly more likely to occur in individuals who had:
- a higher pickle consumption
- psychological distress
- took aspirin
- a family history of GORD.
- smoking caused an increase in the prevalence of GORD however this was not significant (p=0.055).
- Other studies have shown that a high body mass index (BMI) can increase the risk of GORD.
Factors that significantly decreased an individual’s risk of GORD included having a higher fruit and vegetable (fibre) intake and interestingly, a higher fried food intake.
Descending the rebellious ‘reflux’ Qi
TCM places particular importance on eating meals at regular times, in moderate quantities and at a relaxed pace so as not to disturb the downward flow through organs of the digestive system, particularly the Stomach.
In TCM, it is the Stomach that is the first organ to receive the food to be digested. It is known as ‘the origin of fluids’ and is said to prefer foods which are moist to assist in the lubrication of the digestive system and a general function of providing moisture for the body. The energy (or Qi) that is extracted from the food strengthens the whole body but is particularly reflected in the limbs. The process of worrying or overthinking while eating will stagnate or drain the energy of the digestive system, disrupting good digestive processes.
Primarily GORD is classified as a disorder of the descending function of the Stomach Qi resulting in Rebellious Qi. The rebellious Qi moves in an upward direction causing the characteristic burning sensation in the epigastrium and acid regurgitation. There are various reasons why your gastric acid may move upwards rather than staying in your Stomach where it belongs.
How to put out the fire of heart burn
Discuss your condition with your practitioner. They will be able to assess your individual condition and offer an individualised treatment plan which may include:
- Acupuncture: Several acupuncture studies have shown promising results and some acupuncture points have been studied to identify a mechanism of action for GORD treatment. Acupuncture has been shown to increase the effectiveness of PPIs when used concurrently in the treatment of GORD.
- Herbal medicine: TCM and Kampo herbal formulae may offer relief for GORD. Meadowsweet and slippery elm powder are often the western herbalist’s herbs of choice for GORD.
- Reduce your risk factors: decrease pickles in the diet, address psychological stress and dyspepsia, discuss your aspirin use with your doctor, stop smoking and maintain a healthy BMI. Increase your fruit and vegetable consumption.
- Mindful eating: eat regular meals in a relaxed manner until you are about 80% full.
- Relaxation: Find ways to eliminate the causes of stress (where you can) in your life and learn to ways to unwind. This may include meditation, yoga, massage, acupuncture or seeking psychological counselling.
To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture). Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.