acupuncture, Diet, food, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

The Traditional Chinese Medicine word on GORD

yinyangfoodsLast semester I researched gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) for my Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) masters program. Here’s a summary:

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
  • dyspepsia
  • halitosis
  • nightmares
  • restlessness
  • 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.

herbal medicine

Ten things you might not know about herbal medicine

The exquisite saffron flower
The exquisite saffron flower

Last night I enjoyed an evening with Mills and Bone. You might be thinking it went a bit like this…

On truly seeing Charelle’s beauty shine in the candlelight Roger was so glad the middle eastern chef had laced the meal with the most expensive spice in the world, saffron. He knew that this would be a night when he would be grateful for his ginkgo herbal tonic…

Actually, it was nothing like that at all. Mills and Bone, not Mills and Boon. (And I think I’ll call it quits on the romance writing.) The great herbalists Simon Mills and Kerry Bone launched the latest edition of their brilliant text Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy to Brisbane’s herbalists. The launch involved a discussion of several key herbs ranging from their fascinating traditional uses to the latest research findings gained from high quality randomised controlled trials.

Here are ten herbal points of interest from the evening:

  1. Barberry, a classic bitter herb, has excellent properties for managing blood sugar in Diabetes Type II patients.
  2. Cinnamon is one of the great warming herbs and can easily be used in the diet for people who run cold. Grind the quills yourself as you need them to have fresh powder which will maintain its potency better than when you buy it already ground. Most studies are on the Chinese cinnamon, Cinnomomum cassia.
  3. Bitter receptors are found in more places than just on your tongue. Researchers have found them throughout the gastrointestinal tract, the lungs and even on the cells that produce sperm. The herb gentian stimulates seven of the twenty five bitter receptors that we know of, a great many more receptors than most other bitters.
  4. There is thought that ginkgo may be useful in mitigating the effects of radiation and some research supports this. There are some notable ginkgo trees in Japan (still alive today) which were in close proximity to and survived the Hiroshima nuclear blasts without any apparent decline in their health.
  5. Gotu kola is known as the healing herb particularly due to its ability to improve micro-circulation. Other at home remedies include high quality dark chocolate (85%), berries, garlic and green tea.
  6. Meadowsweet is a gentle bitter which combines well with slippery elm powder to reduce gastro-oesophageal reflux. The trick is the combination needs to be taken straight after meals and before bed for the best effect.
  7. For inflammation in the mouth and throat you can’t go past Myrrh. This resin can make a fast-acting gargle and mouth wash.
  8. There is a Arabic proverb for the highly prized tonic herb Nigella that describes it as “the medicine for every disease except death”. In the Middle East it is the number one herb used for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and fibromyalgia.
  9. If you need to improve your cognitive function (eg. memory response time, etc.) look no further than the culinary herb rosemary. Rosemary has been shown to improve cognitive function in research studies. It was also compared to cold tomato juice which had a negative impact on cognitive function – so no cold tomato juice at exam time!
  10. Like Roger told you at the top, saffron is the world’s most expensive spice due to the time intensive process of harvesting only the three crimson stigma from this flower. Interestingly, saffron has performed well in clinical trials on depression, and in contrast to St John’s wort, saffron appears not to have the same herb-drug interactions. The research has shown that it can improve sexual function in men and women taking SSRI anti-depressants, which may be a side effect of taking these medications.

Just remember that herbal preparations should be treated with respect like any other medicine. Seek advice from your health practitioner to get best results rather than self-prescribing.

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.