Acid reflux: removing the cause and strengthening digestion

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.

We take a holistic approach to acid reflux. We will test for food sensitivities and hormonal imbalances and create a treatment plan based on individual needs. This can include diet and lifestyle recommendations, nutrient and herbal medicine.

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. An important study found that the prevalence of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in Hong Kong has increased by 60% over approximately a decade between 2002 and 2011. The simple explanation is the lifestyle and nutritional changes which the region has seen in this time period.

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
  • Smoking
  • Exercise just after meals
  • Stress
  • Obesity
  • Lying down just after meal
  • Dysphagia or difficulty swallowing
  • Dyspepsia: upset stomach or indigestion
  • Gastric infections, notably Helicobacter pylori
  • Pregnancy

The Orthodox Treatment

The more traditional medical treatment consists of two types of medications: antacid tablets that neutralise stomach acids, and H2 blockers or proton-pump inhibitors that decrease acid production in the stomach. If infection is established, it is normally treated with antibiotics.

The Naturopathic Approach

As well as checking results from diagnostic methods, a naturopath will focus on identifying the root cause of the presenting symptoms. Possible causes could be lactose intolerance or other food allergy, an acid-causing diet, excess spices, nervousness and anxiety, smoking, alcohol, or excess coffee and carbonated drinks. Sometimes we find the symptom is secondary to liver troubles.

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.

After identifying and addressing the root cause, naturopaths can apply prescribe appropriate treatments. Methods will include: potent herbal treatments, both to repair damage and to reduce reoccurrence; nutritional therapy – to reduce intolerances, correct acidity and strengthen digestion; stress reduction techniques to lower anxiety. A specific form of zinc treatment is very effective in normalizing an acidic stomach as well as effective probiotics.

The Homeopathic Approach

Homeopathy is one of the most popular holistic systems of medicine. Remedies are selected based upon the theory of individualization and symptoms similarity. The aim of homeopathy is to not only treat the symptoms, but to address its underlying cause and individual susceptibility.

There is a selection of remedies to treat acid reflux symptoms with a lot of variance depending on the cause of acid reflux, as well as your individual constitution. We advise that you consult a qualified homeopathic doctor in person for personalised treatment.

Other Approaches

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 chi circulating the body’s energy and organs. Stress and emotionally-related acidity is especially helped this way. Acupuncture has a calming effect, partly by releasing endorphins, which calm and relieve pain.

What to do next

We would suggest that you start by booking a consultation with a naturopath, a classical homeopath, or a TCM practitioner.