It is normal for people to experience heartburn occasionally but when they are experienced more than two times a week, it may be an indication that your are suffering from a chronic condition known as GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease. The acids in the abdomen manufactured by GERD can destroy the wall of the esophagus resulting in conditions such as difficulty swallowing and ulcers. If not treated properly, GERD can eventually result in esophageal cancer. To prevent this condition from arising, you need to take medications and adopt certain changes to your lifestyle. However, while medications are ideal for short term treatment, their long term use may lead to new and different problems.
Antacids bought over-the-counter antacids are common treatments for heartburn. Using them for several yearswithout the guidance of a physician, however, has been linked to a high incidence of esophageal adenocarcinoma, which is a form of esophageal cancer. On the other side, the long term use of PPIs or proton pump inhibitors, can lead to lower bone density in a person that in turn will increase the chances of bone fractures. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration five years ago stated that prescription PPI and OTC labels should be modified and that they should include in them information regarding the high risk of spine, wrist, and hip fractures that may develop due to usage of these drugs.
Because of the risks and dangers that come with these drugs, a lot of individuals are changing to natural and safer alternative treatments for GERD. The issue here, however, is that very few of these treatments have been proven to work for GERD conditions. But there is one treatment that has been verified to provide true relief for GERD sufferers. That treatment is acupuncture.
Alternative Treatments for GERD
Listed below are some of the alternative treatments that have been utilized for GERD treatment albeit with ambiguous results. They include:
Proof of Acupuncture’s Effectiveness for the Treatment of GERD
Studies have revealed that acupuncture can be effective in the treatment of digestive conditions such as GERD. This is due to its ability to modify acid secretion that positively impacts movement in the gastrointestinal tract.
Chinese medicine practitioners and acupuncturists utilize filiform needles that are stuck into prescribed points in the body to attain specific physiological outcomes.
More and more doctors are becoming aware of acupuncture’s potency in treating GERD that many of them are now referring patients to licensed and highly skilled practitioners who were especially trained in handling digestive conditions.
A particular study observed the outcomes between acupuncture treatments and a double dose of standard GERD drug in patients who have been taking PPIs without success. At the end of the study, the patients who were given complementary acupuncture treatment along with their regular medication regimen showed a substantial lessening of their day and nighttime acid regurgitation and heartburn compared with the heartburn that they were experiencing prior to the study.
These patients were subjected to a double dose of drugs which had no effect in relief of the symptoms as observed prior to the start of the study.
Other Alternative Therapies for GERD
Two alternative therapies, guided imagery (a therapeutic procedure in which an individual visualizes in his/her mind attacking the illness or imagines himself/herself feeling better) and relaxation therapy showed promising results in the treatment of gastrointestinal conditions. They, however, have not showed empirical proof of effectiveness when it comes to treating GERD.
Herbal supplements such as slippery elm, marshmallow, garlic, Artemisia, antioxidants, and aloe vera are some of the herbal supplements recommended for GERD treatment. However, there is still no scientific proof that they work.
There are Chinese medicine practitioners who promote an herb known as deglycyrrhizinated licorice for patients with GERD. There have been studies that showed this herb to be effective in healing ulcers; they seem ineffective, however, for GERD.
Although there are skeptics who think that meditation and acupuncture won’t work for GERD or any other health conditions, more and more people and even doctors see these two complementary modalities for conventional GERD treatments are very useful in the treatment of GERD.
Alternative therapies can also be sensible options for surgery. It is said that meditation can relieve 20% of GERD symptoms and acupuncture another 20% which are enough to avoid surgery by the patient.
You need to be aware that the US FDA (Food and Drug administration) does not have regulatory powers over the use of herbs and dietary supplements. You then need to be under the strict guidance of a licensed acupuncturist/herbalist if you intend to avail yourself of these products.
Herbs and dietary supplements can also interact with other drugs you are currently using. So, you need to inform your acupuncturist/herbalist about the drugs you are currently taking before he/she prescribes you with certain herbs and supplements. What’s more never cease taking your medication unless told so by your doctor.
Dr. Yelena Pakula is a Pembroke Pines licensed acupuncture doctor and the medical director of Vita-Health Acupuncture and Wellness Center in Pembroke Pines, FL.