Heartburn and Acid Reflux Resolved with Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine

Posted by davidscrimgeour on July 15th, 2015

By Kathy Thorpe, MA, CHom, Boulder, CO

We all know the feeling of burning in the stomach, chest and throat after an exceptionally rich meal. We walk around, we can’t get comfortable, we can’t sleep. But for millions of Americans, this painful experience has become an almost daily occurrence that can bring enormous discomfort, impair sleep and lead to chronic upper respiratory infections and increase the chance of cancer of the esophagus.

60% of all Americans will have some symptoms of acid reflux. As many as 7 million American suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) that results when stomach acid rises into the esophagus producing a burning sensation on a daily basis.

While the exact cause is often unknown, the major culprits are diet, lifestyle choices, genetics and structural problems of the digestive system. Western medicine has helped resolve the symptoms with medications that neutralize or minimize stomach acid. The neutralizers such as Tums offered some relief but caused diarrhea and constipation. Then came H2 antagonists such as Zantac which partially suppressed the acid and were recommended for temporary relief. Finally GERD was treated with protein pump inhibitors (PPIs) that suppress stomach acid production and are prescribed for long-term use.

Since their entry into the market, PPIs have become the second most popular class of prescription drugs in the U.S., with Nexium and Prilosec being the fastest growing drugs in the world.

David Scrimgeour, Licensed Acupuncturist in Boulder, Colorado, has been treating heartburn and acid reflux for years. He is concerned about people using PPIs on a daily basis. “Any time you disrupt a necessary bodily function (such as acid production that is necessary for digestion), you are going to have side effects and issues down the road.”

According to Scrimgeour, the acidic environment in the stomach is necessary for digestion and to scavenge pathogens that enter the body through our food. Without it, opportunistic pathogens can proliferate boosting the risk of gastrointestinal diseases such as salmonella, C. Difficile, traveler’s diarrhea and respiratory tract infections. There are also concerns about absorption of calcium leading to increased risk of osteoporosis and hip fractures. In addition, the body can’t absorb B12 without stomach acid, so people taking PPIs may be deficient in B12 which is essential for the manufacture of red blood cells and is also needed to support the normal function of nerve cells.

David Scrimgeour has used acupuncture and Chinese medicine to treat heartburn and acid reflux successfully for over 24 years. “Often the problem is with the liver,” says Scrimgeour. “When a person is under stress, the liver qi rebels, flows erratically and spills over into the stomach where it causes indigestion and excess heat. The solution is to balance the liver energy and cool the fire with acupuncture, nourishing foods and Chinese herbs.”

Scrimgeour, who has seen the incidence of GERD rise significantly over the past decade, claims that the problem is not too much stomach acid but that people don’t often have enough of the right kind. “Hydrocholoric acid is necessary for the digestion of proteins. If this is missing, proteins putrefy and the digestive system has to work extra hard to make up for it, rebounding with excess production of other acids.”

Scrimgeour typically puts his patients on a two-week detoxification program to rest the digestive system and allow the esophagus to heal. He recommends a 1,000-year-old gastrointestinal tonic called An Zhong San known as “calm the middle powder,” which consists of fennel, cardamom and other herbs aimed at mobilizing stagnant qi and treating pain. “It works extremely well for anyone who has heartburn or acid reflux.” He also encourages supplemental digestive enzymes and either hydrochloric acid to support digestion or deglycyrrhizinated licorice to reduce inflammation and coat the stomach lining and the esophagus.

With these recommendations, most of my patients have been able to resolve their acid reflux, heartburn, indigestion and improve their overall energy and vitally, says Scrimgeour.

David Scrimgeour specializes in treating acid reflux, GERD, heartburn as well as other gastrointestinal disorders and practices acupuncture and Chinese medicine at his clinic in Boulder, Colorado. He is also an acupuncturist for the Longmont, Louisville, Lafayette and Erie areas in Colorado. For more information, he can be reached at 303 413-9596 or through his website: www.davidscrimgeour.com.

Kathy Thorpe is a natural health writer and blogger who has been writing about alternative approaches to health and wellness for the past ten years. Prior to that, she taught English at U.C. Berkeley and at the University of Colorado. She can be reached at 303 583-0179

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