Acid reflux is a medical condition in which there is backflow or reflux of gastric juices (acids and enzymes) from the stomach to oesophagus. Too much reflux can cause the stomach acids to burn the oesophagus, which can result in serious complications and day to day discomfort.
The oesophageal sphincter lies at the junction of the stomach and the oesophagus; the lower oesophageal sphincter plays an important role in the acid reflux condition. This sphincter allows food to enter the stomach and it prevents the reflux of acidic stomach contents back in to oesophagus but a malfunctioning of lower oesophageal sphincter can cause conditions like acid reflux.
Acid reflux produces a burning sensation in the chest and throat and is often known as heart burn. It can also cause:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Chronic cough
- Stomach pain or burning in the upper abdomen
- Persistent sore throat
- Regurgitation of foods or liquids with a taste of acid in the throat
- Persistent hoarseness or laryngitis
Although acid reflux is less prevalent in Asian patients compared with their Western counterparts, the past decade has seen a steady rise in the number of cases in Hong Kong.
The most common triggers of acid reflux are lifestyle choices. Triggers of heartburn symptoms include:
- Heavy meals
- Alcohol, chocolate, spicy or fatty foods, carbonated drinks, peppermint
- Allergies and food intolerances
- Stress, anxiety and depression
- Exercise just after meals
- Lying down just after meal
- Dysphagia or difficulty swallowing
- Dyspepsia: upset stomach or indigestion
- Gastric infections, notably helicobacter pylori
Traditionally, acid reflux is treated with antacids that neutralise acidity in the stomach. Taken long-term, these can cause high levels of calcium in the body, leading to nausea and vomiting. They can also cause stomach pain, wind and digestive upset.
Another form of conventional treatment are H2 blockers and proton-pump inhibitors that decrease acid production in the stomach. Stomach pain and digestive upset are also side effects of these medications.
Our naturopaths focus on identifying the root cause of your presenting symptoms. They may refer you for testing.
Diagnosis methods mainly include gastroscopy, to diagnose any damage. A breath test may be done to rule out Helicobacter pylori infections. At IMI we may assess gastric acidity by Electro-Acupuncture diagnostics, which is non invasive, as well as refer you to a specialist for the Helicobacter breath test.
Sometimes we find the symptom is secondary to liver troubles.
After identifying and addressing the root cause, naturopaths can prescribe appropriate treatments.
Methods may include: herbal treatments to repair damage and to reduce reoccurrence.
Nutritional therapy– to reduce intolerances, correct acidity and strengthen digestion.
Stress reduction techniques to lower anxiety. If needed, our naturopaths can refer you to our counselling team for further support.
Other natural and alternative modes of treatment for acid reflux symptoms include acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. These therapies look to balance the blocked energy or qi circulating the body’s energy and organs. This is particularly effective in the case of stress related acidity. By releasing endorphins, acupuncture can help calm the digestive system and relieve pain.