Acupuncture and GERD (Acid Reflux)


For many sufferers, GERD is a persistent problem, despite changes in diet and lifestyle. Even medication may not be fully effective at treating GERD. Surgical procedures are both expensive and invasive, leaving many people to suffer from chronic GERD without relief. They may increase their GERD medication to try and achieve some form of relief but this comes with dangerous consequences.

Dangers of PPIs

Proton pump inhibitors, otherwise known as PPIs have been found to damage your body’s ability to absorb calcium. This can lead to other health condition like osteoporosis – deterioration of the bones. While you can counteract this effect somewhat by increasing your carotenoid intake, the fact remains that PPIs are not safe to take for long periods of time. As recommended by Mayo Clinic, if you are taking PPIs for more than a year, you should be tested for calcium absorption.

The problem is that PPIs are the most commonly used method of treatment for GERD, despite the fact that not all GERD issues are related to stomach acid. PPIs inhibit the production of stomach acid but since approximately half of all GERD occurrences are not related to stomach acid production, it makes sense why so many GERD sufferers fail to find relief from PPIs.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture and GERD (Acid Reflux)Acupuncture has been used for centuries to heal various ailments. It is done by stimulating focal points on the body through the use of needles. The focal point is determined by the specific ailment of the sufferer. It has been used to treat everything from intestinal problems to fertility issues.

Acupressure is similar to acupuncture in terms of using specific points on the body. It is different, however, because it does not implement the use of needles for treatment. Instead, pressure is placed on the specified focal points to achieve healing and treatment.

Acupuncture for GERD

Because acupuncture aims to heal the entire digestive system, not just GERD, the results are not dependent on the reason that GERD occurs. This means that, whether your GERD is a result of a weakened esophageal sphincter or it is because of excessive stomach acid production, acupuncture may be able to help.

Does it Really Work?

Of course, the real question is, does it work? For individuals who have never participated in holistic, natural or homeopathic healing, making the jump to believe that a few needles in the body could treat a health condition might be pretty challenging. There is, however, some evidence that acupuncture may be beneficial for GERD sufferers.

One study, conducted by the Neuroenteric Clinical Research Group, tested to see if the use of acupuncture was more effective at treating GERD than doubling the dose of PPI inhibitors. Thirty patients who were not receiving relief from a once-a-day PPI dose participated in the study. Participants were divided into two groups – one group received a second dosage of PPIs and the other group received their once daily dosage  along with acupuncture. According to the results of the study, the group that received acupuncture and once daily dose received more GERD relief than the group that was given a double dose of PPIs.

A recent Australian study also took a look at GERD treatment via the use of acupuncture. In this study, however, there was no comparison made to PPI use. Instead, researchers used a focal point on the wrist to actually induce relaxations of the Lower Esophageal Sphincter, which is the set of muscles that often weakens in GERD. After they induced the relaxations, they used a current to reduce the number of sphincter relaxations. In the study, relaxations of the sphincter were reduced by 40%. This study still needs more evidence to prove its promising results but it does add evidence to the efficacy of acupuncture to treat GERD.

Acupuncture vs. Acupressure

It is not clear whether acupuncture or acupressure is more effective. Personal preference may be a determining factor on which treatment option is best. Those who are nervous about the use of needles may prefer acupressure.  They may or may not find relief.

Should You Use Acupuncture to Treat Your GERD?

Since the evidence is not clear as to whether or not acupuncture is truly effective in  treating GERD, it would be more of an experimental option. Be aware, however, that many people have found GERD relief through acupuncture. Just be certain that if you do choose acupuncture, you see only a licensed professional. If performed incorrectly, acupuncture can be dangerous or harmful.

Overall, as long as you are seeing a licensed professional, the effects of acupuncture are harmless. Even if it does not work, then you lose out on nothing more than some of your time and money. Unlike PPIs, there are no health problems that can occur as long as acupuncture is conducted professionally and safely. For those who are not finding relief through the use of PPIs or have been taking PPIs for a long period of time, it may be an alternative worth to try.

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