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Acid reflux is the outcome of a valve malfunction (your lower oesophageal sphincter or LOS) and stomach acid flowing upwards rather than downwards. The solution is simple; fix the valve and enable your stomach chi to descend so that stomach acid flows downwards. Lifestyle is what causes the valve malfunction and the reversal of stomach acid. If you are racing around, multi-tasking at breakfast, eating lunch on the run, or even texting while you eat you are ‘up in your head’ and this interrupts the natural downward flow. It creates friction, which develops into heat, heat rises and acid rises with it.
The solution is lifestyle not medication. Have calm nourishing meals. This is at the very core of health. If the acid reflux cause (what and how you eat) is not treated you’ll have impaired nutrient intake, start lacking energy, feel mentally exhausted, emotionally reactive and lose your drive in life. It can lead to compensatory patterns such as overeating the ‘fun not food’ foods, and basically can start a downward health spiral. Acid reflux involves two major health and happiness organs, your stomach and liver. Think of it as warning light on the dash, don’t stick a Band-Aid over it, make some simple lifestyle changes and head towards health and happiness instead. My book Clock On To Health shows how to use mindful eating, stress management and chi practices to promote a smooth flow of liver chi; and what, when and how to eat, to enable stomach chi to descend.
Whereas in Western medicine the cause of a malfunctioning lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS), a valve that opens to allow food into the stomach and then closes afterwards is unknown, in Chinese medicine the malfunction is primarily due to stagnation of liver chi. The liver is responsible for a smooth flow of chi around the body which enables the organs, muscles and valves to function properly. The LOS function depends on liver chi to makes substances and fluids move in the correct direction. So the solution is to make liver chi flow smoothly again.
Whereas Western medicine treats the symptoms of acid reflux, in Chinese medicine we address the causes. The main cause of liver chi stagnation is emotional stress and a hectic lifestyle. Juggling too many projects at the same time, too much spicy and greasy food, smoking; and anger, frustration and worry all generate heat in the stomach. This turns into fire, stomach chi can’t descend and it rises upwards. If the LOS lacks chi it can’t operate properly and stomach acid flows back up into the oesophagus. This causes a sore or burning feeling in the chest, sour taste in the mouth, problems swallowing, sore throat, regurgitation of food and fluids, bad breath, nausea and vomiting.
In Western medicine acid reflux, also known as acid indigestion, is a condition wherein stomach acid (aka hydrochloric acid) flows back up into the oesophagus. This occurs when the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS), a valve that opens to allow food into the stomach and then closes afterwards, fails to function correctly. The primary symptom associated with acid reflux is heartburn, which occurs as stomach acid irritates the delicate lining of the oesophagus and causes a burning sensation in the chest. Other symptoms can include a sour taste in the back of the mouth, the regurgitation of food and fluids, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, bad breath, nausea, and vomiting.
Acid reflux is extremely common but the root cause of a malfunctioning LOS is unknown in Western medicine. A poor diet and lifestyle choices are believed to be closely linked to its onset. Deep fried or spicy foods and soft drinks, coffee, and alcohol are all known to aggravate the condition, as are smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, and lying down immediately after eating. The use of anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and some prescription medications can also cause acid reflux. If acid reflux is experienced more than twice a week, the condition is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Untreated, GERD can be further linked to complications such as asthma, chronic coughing, laryngitis and pneumonia, ulcers, bleeding, and oesophageal conditions such as oesophagitis and even cancer.
Western medicine has numerous treatments for the symptoms of acid reflux. Diet and lifestyle changes and antacids are commonly recommended to begin with. H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) which decrease acid production are sometimes prescribed. In cases where medication proves ineffective, Laparoscopic antireflux surgery, which tightens and strengthens the LOS (lower oesophageal sphincter), is a common option.